Brazil legend Pele has told Sport Bild the situation in his homeland is a “disgrace” as he blamed corruption for the delays in constructing World Cup stadiums.
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 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 told a news conference reported by Reuters: “People should have demonstrated when Brazil was chosen to organise the World Cup, and not now that the World Cup is very soon.”
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.
Regardless of the outcome, the 73-year-old is looking forward to the World Cup, saying: “It will be a festival of football.”