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Pele’s Thoughts On World Football


Yes, international football is off the agenda for the time being as we dig in for the weekly grind of club football over the winter. I thought however,  EplTalk readers would be interested in what Brazil’s finest had to say about the current state of football.

Pele was in Dublin on Thursday to raise money for the Crumlin Children’s Hospital and the Little Prince Hospital in Brazil, two very worthy causes to be sure. Pele also had some interesting things to say about Thierry Henry’s handball, his tip to win the World Cup next summer and modern tactics in football.

It is a rare thing as to be in the presence of greatness and Pele’s charisma and natural charm make it obvious why even today he is such a revered figure around the world. 

The rest of the world may be sick of talking about the Thierry Henry handball but because he was in Ireland there was no way Pele could escape the issue completely. Without going into that particular issue again Pele said although the result was “unfair”, mistakes happen in football and it would have been too complicated to give a replay. Not what the assembled press pack wanted to hear but a balanced analysis of what went on if you ask me. Pele did share some interesting thoughts on how problems like this can be eradicated in football.

He said: “I am part of the FIFA committee and in the last meeting in Zurich we discuss these things. Myself and Beckenbauer said there should be one more referee behind the goals, this was before all this happened. We understand that all the problems are created inside the box and sometimes the referee cannot see, so we vote to put one more referee behind the goal.

“If you have the referee behind the goals you avoid all those problems because mistakes happen. This thing happened in one second, the result was unfair but unfortunately you cannot change this.”

Pele also jumped to the defence of Henry saying there is no way the player thought when the ball was in the air that he would wait for it and handle it because it all happened so quickly.

There has never been much love lost between Pele and Argentina’s favourite son Maradona, and the Brazilian’ s comments yesterday would not have been music to the volatile manager’s ears.

He said: “”He was criticised until the end because Argentina did not play well. I think this is not his fault, the fault is the President of the Confederation who  put him there. That is where the fault is. He was a great player but he did not have experience. Argentina has lots of problems, they did not have time to train, they have good players but no time because they play in Europe and they were lucky. Now they have time and Argentina will always be a very difficult team.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Maradona’s tenure but Pele thinks the World Cup in South Africa is wide open. 

“I wish Brazil but we have some excellent teams at the moment. Spain are in the best time now as a national team but we had Holland before with an excellent team who never won it. The World Cup is always a different tournament.”

Although Pele has praised the English team in the past he does not think they have what it takes to claim the trophy for the first time since 1966 and thinks an African team could surprise the world in South Africa.

“To win not but they have the experience to play in a World Cup. Africa now have good teams, they have lots of players playing in Europe they have good teams so maybe we will have a surprise with an African team.”

Pele also thinks football has changed quite alot since his time and nowadays there is far too much emphasis on playing like a machine.

“Football today is so physical. In my day we made the ball run, you had to use intelligence and the ball had to run. Now it is more tactical, alot of the players cannot do some improvisation because the coach will shout at them. They have to play like a machine. They talk about 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and this kind of thing but they are all liars because they play 11 versus 11 now, when they lose the ball they get everyone back into the midfield. If you have good players you have a good chance but everybody now gets behind the ball. The game though will always be a beautiful game because when you have good players you have good game.”

When asked about the perceived modern epidemic of diving and cheating in football, Pele was quick to point out that players have always looked to gain an advantage bu there is just so much more attention on what happens on the pitch.

“The man always try to do this, this is normal. Depending on what country you play in when I played. In Europe they were always more honest than in the Latin countries. To play in Argentina, Uruguay or Paraguay it was more complicated. Always you are going to have someone who is going to try, this is life.”

Pele said he is delighted that Brazil has managed to win the right to host both the World Cup and the Olympics in the coming decade. The legend never got to play in the Olympics because he was signed up as a professional when he was 16.

“I could not play in the Olympics but I wanted to win the event for Rio de Janeiro. I joke with the Brazilian players because we have never won the gold medal and I say that is because I never played.”

And with that the little Brazilian was whisked away to another pressing engagement. It was all a bit surreal really, had I not recorded it I am not sure I would believe I was actually there.

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  1. Rory

    November 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I can understand where you are coming from but I was trying to take up that point in a tongue in cheek way. A great cause and Pele’s visit raised a huge amount of money in the one day he came to Ireland. I was poking fun at the priorities of sport journalists, if it came across as flippant it certainly wasn’t meant that way.

  2. Gunner JD

    November 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Alright alright, this was an enjoyable article and insight on the world’s greatest footballer, so I commend you for bringing such a piece to this site, and will read more of your contributions in the future,


    “But journalists being journalists once the humanitarian stuff was out of the way we got straight into the things that really matter, Thierry Henry’s handball, his tip to win the World Cup next summer and modern tactics in football.”

    I understand your sentiment I think but putting it in this way was a little insensitive, and at worst, ignorant journalistic hyberbole. Yes this is a fanatical football blog but a little more perspective perhaps? Football is after all just a game, and it just felt as if the idea of Pele using his stature to contribute to something much greater than the game was just kind of swept away. And yes it occurs to me that that statement was perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek as well.

    But all in all a very enjoyable piece. Well done.

    • Rory

      November 27, 2009 at 7:33 pm

      Decided to give it a quick edit to avoid any confusion. As I said below it was certainly tongue in cheek and never meant to undermine Pele’s charity work or the work of people in the hospitals involved.

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