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Mar 10, 2014

Pele: Neymar can lift Brazil protesters

Pele has told French radio he agrees with the Brazilian protesters unhappy with the state of their country, but believes Neymar can help put a smile on their faces come next summer's World Cup.

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Protests against the Brazilian government have blighted the build-up to the tournament with people arguing money lavished on preparing their nation to host the World Cup could have been better spent elsewhere.

Speaking to RMC on a visit to Paris, Pele, 73, said he had sympathy for those on the streets, though urged the public to give the Selecao their full backing when they get out onto the pitch.

"I agree with the protesters. It's something that worries me, because myself, when I scored my 1000th goal, I asked the government to build schools, to look after the children,” Pele said.

“Everyone knows my beliefs. But people have to understand that it's no longer the time for it, because the players are the best possible promotion of Brazil. They have nothing to do with the political situation. Let the event pass before opposing the government."

A successful World Cup would undoubtedly lift spirits and ease tension within the South American nation. Of all of Luiz Felipe Scolari's star-studded squad, Neymar, 22, carries the most burden of an expectant nation.

The Barcelona player shone at the Confederations Cup last summer, earning himself the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player as he made a significant contribution to Brazil's win over Spain. Pele has faith in the youngster's talents, particularly since his move from Santos to Catalonia last summer.

"He's 22. I was 17 when I won my first World Cup," Pele added. "It's a bit different, but there is no doubt that Neymar is one of the best Brazilian players of the last two years. He has a lot of responsibility because everyone expects him to win us the World Cup. But he has gained in maturity thanks to his six months in Barcelona and it's good for him and Brazil."

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