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May 20, 2014

Pele hits out at World Cup preparations

Brazil's Pele shares his thoughts on the teams that pose the biggest threat to the hosts in the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil legend Pele says that the situation in his homeland is a "disgrace" as he blamed corruption for the delays in constructing World Cup stadiums.

Officials pleased with Curitiba test

Sao Paulo's Itaquerao, Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal and Curitiba's Arena da Baixada are all unfinished despite the tournament starting in less than a month, and three-time World Cup winner Pele said the delays are intolerable.

"The political situation is difficult," he told Sport Bild. "The situation worries me. There has been sufficient time to bring the stadiums to completion. It's unacceptable. It is a disgrace."

Later, he said in a news conference that, "It's a pity that we still have a stadium that's not yet finished. "The first match is going to be in the Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo, which is called Itaquerao, but there's a problem because it's not finished yet. That's what I say is regrettable. That's a problem."

The 2014 tournament was awarded to Brazil in 2007 and FIFA officials have repeatedly expressed concern over the failure to meet construction targets.

The country has also been contending with widespread anger amid the extortionate cost of staging the tournament and claims of corruption. Pele, special advisor of the World Cup organising committee, said he could understand why the Brazilian people are protesting and feels sympathy for them.

However, he feels the protests have come too late, saying: "People should have demonstrated when Brazil was chosen to organise the World Cup, and not now that the World Cup is very soon.

"It's clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been.

"Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. ... Brazil needs it. That's clear. On that point, I agree (with the protests). But I lament what protesters are doing, which is breaking and burning everything. It's money that we will have to spend again.''

Asked whether protests could put the tournament in jeopardy, he said: "Yes, because I know that 25 percent of foreigners have already cancelled their trip to the country."

He added in Sport Bild that there is a "need to differentiate" between what is acceptable and unacceptable.

"The protests against the corruption at the construction sites are understandable; violence is not," he said. "I blame the evil people who have stolen all the money."

Pele hopes the Brazilian players can enjoy a successful tournament on home soil despite the organisational problems.

"Our national team has nothing to do with the existing corruption that has delayed the construction of the stadiums," he said.

He added: "I hope that Brazil will win the World Cup. To me, the two best teams from Europe are Germany and Spain -- Spain, because they have been playing outstanding football for years now, and Germany because there are well organised and love to play attacking football. They are almost more Brazilian than we are."

Regardless of the outcome, the 73-year-old is looking forward to the World Cup, saying: "It will be a festival of football."

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