Pele: 'Rio is not ready for the World Cup'

At a press conference in London, football legend Pele fielded questions on the upcoming World Cup in Rio, the Pope, and Usain Bolt.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It's been more than 30 years since Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more famously known as Pelé, hung up his football boots. But even in retirement, at 71 years old, he still has plenty of the old magic.

Pelé is in London to promote a new four-year deal with comms giant MediaCom. That's right, Pelé the superbrand is back on the market. Over the next couple of years, you'll no doubt see him tucking into a Big Mac on billboards, sporting Nike trainers, or using a limited edition Lynx deodorant. Over 60 brands have dedicated a total $2bn to promote the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. And Pelé will be steering the good ship PR.

He seems ludicrously pleased to be doing so. 'I am very happy to be a part of this,' he says, beaming. Indeed, the money should come in handy, as not all his post-footie ventures have hit the back of the net.

He goes on to say in his broken English that, 'At lunch with the Pope, he said now is the moment to do just one thing. You have to get one chief.' So, MediaCom not only controls one in every three adverts placed in the world, it also has friends in high - even divine - places.

'I am a good boy,' Pele concludes, nodding. He'll certainly be a rich one. According to Brazillian magazine Dinheiro, Pele does not advertise for less than $1m a pop, earning just under $15m a year. But the MediaCom execs are keen to skirt around Pele's business interests, focussing instead on 'all he's done in humanitarian terms'. No mention of all his good work for the erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical industry, interestingly...

Given that we're in the final throes of the Olympics, the conversation moves swiftly to sport. 'Who's better, you or Usain Bolt?' asks one hack. 'We'll have to wait 99 years to find out,' is Pele's enigmatic answer.

‘On the subject of the upcoming World Cup and Olympics 2016, he is most voluble. 'Rio is not ready,' he admits. 'There is a problem with construction. Communications are not so good yet. Transport is also not good.'

Cripes. Still, they said the London transport system would never cope, and it's all going well so far. And in Rio, if you get fed up sitting in traffic, you can at least go to the beach...

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