Pele says World Cup games should have 5 officials

Pele says World Cup games should have 5 officials

Published Feb. 23, 2010 4:15 p.m. ET

Pele says FIFA should field a match official behind each goal to assist the referee at the World Cup and avoid scandals like Diego Maradona's infamous handball at the 1986 tournament.

Pele said Monday that he is in favor of five match officials being used in each game at the World Cup in South Africa this June, but he opposes video replays. Stopping play would slow the game and could impede a possible counterattack, he said.

UEFA introduced the experiment of using five match officials in the Europa League this season.

Pele spoke Monday in Mexico City where he is promoting the Copa Libertadores, South America's top club competition.

"It was decided not to use modern technologies, but we do propose using two referees behind the goals, and FIFA is considering this," said Pele, who has been working with a FIFA committee that oversees officiating.

Pele, a three-time World Cup winner with Brazil, raised the possibility of having referees behind the goals for international games at FIFA meetings with president Sepp Blatter and German legend Franz Beckenbauer in the fall, after Thierry Henry's blatant handball helped France beat Ireland and qualify for the World Cup.

It's a proposal that's been floated since the 1986 World Cup when Maradona, now coach of Argentina, scored a goal against England with an unpenalized handball which he referred to as the "Hand of God."

Pele said Monday he's looking forward to a scandal-free World Cup, and that while it's difficult to name favorites, he has a lot of confidence in his homeland and has been impressed with Spain as well. He also said England, Italy and Argentina are likely to be contenders.

"The reality is that there isn't a team that can say, 'We're the team most likely to win the World Cup.' It's very, very even," he said.

However, Pele said he was not optimistic about Mexico's chances.

"The Mexican soccer team needs to do more exchanges with Latin America and Europe," he said. "I think that would give them more experience and confidence."

Pele also said that Brazilian striker Robinho, who recently returned to Brazilian club side Santos from Manchester City on loan, deserves a place in the national squad.

Pele began playing for Santos, based in Sao Paulo, when he was 15 and played for the team for almost 20 years. He joined the national team a year later and won his first World Cup when he was just 17.