Pele says he was alarmed by World Cup delays

Pele says it was scary to see how far behind Brazil was in its

preparations to host the 2014 World Cup.

He said on Thursday that it made him sad that it took so long

for the country to start seriously preparing for the tournament,

but added he was confident Brazil will do what needs to be done in

time.

The football great defended FIFA for asking Brazil to urgently

approve a law establishing the legal framework needed for the World

Cup, saying the government knew of the world governing body’s

demands when it bid to host the tournament.

Pele also said Neymar did the right thing by choosing to stay in

Brazil instead of accepting an offer from a European club, adding

that Santos has a good chance of beating Barcelona in the Club

World Cup next month in Japan.

Pele, the World Cup’s official ambassador in Brazil, said he was

surprised with some of the delays in the 12 host cities, including

in construction for some of the stadiums that will be used in the

monthlong tournament scheduled to begin in less than three

years.

”It was scary,” he said. ”It is sad and it worries me that we

have to go through this even though we knew eight years ago that

the World Cup was going to be held in Brazil.”

He said, however, that President Dilma Rousseff was fully aware

of the challenges Brazil was facing and won’t let Brazil fail.

”It seems everything is being solved, there are some delays but

I’m certain that everything will be ready,” he said. ”We have

problems with transportation and communications, but the government

will do everything necessary to get things ready.”

Pele made the comments at a press conference to promote a

research institute that bears his name and is aimed at helping

children across Brazil.

He also said he thought FIFA was right to ask Brazil to sign the

law that will allow Brazil to deliver the final commitments it made

to FIFA in its bid to host the World Cup and the 2013

Confederations Cup.

The new law would regulate commercial rights, alcohol sales and

advertising rules for the tournament, among other things. But many

Brazilian lawmakers, including former striker Romario, are hesitant

because the proposed law allegedly gives FIFA too many powers.

”FIFA cannot be blamed for anything,” Pele said. ”This is not

new for the Brazilian government. It accepted all of these demands,

now it has to find a solution and I know that it will find

it.”

Pele also praised young Brazil striker Neymar for agreeing to

stay with Santos until the World Cup, and dismissing a move to

clubs such as Real Madrid or Barcelona, which reportedly tried to

sign him several times.

”We always thought that it would be better for him to stay in

Brazil for as long as possible and we always tried to convince him

of that,” said Pele, who was Santos’ biggest star in the 1960s.

”It’s better if he stays here until he can become more mature to

play in Europe.”

Neymar, one of Brazil’s most promising young players in years,

will be 22 years old after the World Cup.

Pele said Neymar was ”technically” better than Argentina’s

Lionel Messi, but admitted that the Brazilian still has a lot to

prove if he wants to be considered the best player in the world one

day.

Pele said, however, that Neymar can help lead Santos past

Barcelona if the teams meet at the Club World Cup.

”Santos definitely can beat Barcelona,” he said. ”Obviously,

Barcelona is a much more organized team today, it has been playing

together for a long time, but Santos also has a good team and in

one game it has the capability of beating Barcelona.”

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