Pele backs Sepp Blatter’s bid to remain FIFA president

Pele says he 'will support Sepp Blatter because Blatter has more experience.'

NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON — Pele is supporting Sepp Blatter’s bid to continue running world football as the FIFA president prepares for his toughest-ever election battle.

Blatter is taking on three rivals in FIFA’s May election, including Pele’s friend, Luis Figo, the former Portugal, Barcelona and Real Madrid player.

But Pele is insistent that the 79-year-old Blatter should serve a fifth, four-year term despite lingering questions over FIFA’s handling of ethics scandals.

”I am going to be clear, I will support Sepp Blatter because Blatter has more experience, he stayed there a long time,” Pele said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. ”Of course in life you must have some changes, but I will support Blatter, I think he is still has opportunity to do nice administration.”

Pele believes FIFA’s biggest challenge is being able to effectively manage a rapidly-expanding game.

”People should pay attention to one thing, for some years it was two or three countries (dominating) football),” the Brazilian said. ”Now you have growth … Asia, Africa. (It’s) becoming more difficult to administrate FIFA now, that is the problem.”

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Pele also highlighted ”this problem with Platini and Blatter” – with UEFA President Michel Platini demanding the 79-year-old Swiss steps aside.

Platini, though, is not a candidate in the election. Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan and Dutch football chief Michael van Praag are joining Figo and Blatter as candidates in the secret ballot of FIFA’s 209 member associations.

Pele was speaking at a Subway sandwich store promotional event in London three months after leaving a Brazilian hospital after being treated for a urinary tract infection. While in England, Pele is traveling to Liverpool for Sunday’s Premier League match against Manchester United at Anfield.