Football legend Pele on Thursday described the FIFA corruption scandal as a “shame”, but made it clear that the reputation of the game was not tarnished since it was the result of wrongdoings of those involved in the world governing body and not due to any on-field issues.
“Whatever happening in FIFA, it is a shame. But this is not due to football but due to some people involved in the FIFA. Of course, we are sorry about what happened now in FIFA,” Pele, who is in India on the invitation of Subroto Cup organisers, said at a press conference on the second day of his maiden visit to the Capital city.
“But, we cannot mix this (corruption scandal) with football. This is due to some people who administer football,” he said when asked about the corruption scandal, which has led to the suspension of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and European football governing body (UEFA) chief Michel Platini.
FIFA has been plunged into crisis following allegations of widespread corruption since this summer, when the US Department of Justice indicted several top executives of the world football governing body. As a result, Blatter and Platini were suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee.
“It is easy to criticise things and say that these things have been happening in FIFA. But you should not forget that because of the FIFA, if you see football today, it is the most popular sport in the world.
“More and more people are playing football and the game is developing worldwide, be it in Asia, Africa, South America or anywhere. If you see in history, football has united people, and have saved people from drug abuse etc,” the 74-year-old ‘King of Football’ said.
Pele, considered the greatest ever footballer, had said in Kolkata during his October 11-14 visit – his second to that city after 1977 — that he was not interested in running for the FIFA presidency after Blatter stepped down in June.