Jun 23, 2014

    Did someone forget to invite Pele?


    HE'S "the king", renowned as football's greatest and the icon of Brazilian World Cup success. But with the tournament finally back in his home country, it seems somebody forgot to invite Pele.

    At the opening ceremony in Sao Paulo, attended by President Dilma Rousseff and a clutch of visiting heads of state, Pele was a notable absentee, despite living not far away in Santos.

    For Brazil's second game in Fortaleza, the three-time World Cup winner was not only not at the game - he was in his car, stuck in Brazil's notorious traffic near Sao Paulo. "It was the second time I heard a Brazil World Cup match on the radio... in 1950 and today," he told Globo television later, referring to when Brazil first hosted the World Cup.

    Brazil is not short of successful former players. But Pele, 73, was named an honorary ambassador in the build-up to the World Cup and has an unmatchable following abroad.

    However, at the World Cup his appearances have mainly been restricted to TV advertisements for supermarkets, fast food and shampoo at half-time.

    Rather than Pele, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen is tipped as the personality most likely to hand over the trophy at the July 13 final in Rio. It is a surprising demotion for a man named "athlete of the century" by France's L'Equipe sports magazine.