LONDON — Pele denies he’s feuding with Brazilian football chief Ricardo Teixeira despite failing to receive an official invitation for the 2014 World Cup qualifying draw last week.
The Brazilian great needed an honorary ambassadorship from the government to attend the Rio de Janeiro event on Saturday.
Teixeira is also the president of the World Cup’s local organizing committee. He has been regularly attacked by the Brazilian media for alleged irregularities while running football in the country. A march in protest against his reign was held before the draw.
“I have not had a fight with Ricardo Teixieira. It is not true, I respect him. It wasn’t really anything,” Pele said Tuesday from London. “We want to have an excellent World Cup and that is what we’re going to try and do. He has his problems with the media who don’t like him, but I hope this doesn’t affect the football.
“For me and for football in Brazil, I think we can not worry about a small problem.”
FIFA is concerned at the slow pace of preparations for the tournament and fears that some facilities — including a potential venue for the final, Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium — will only be ready with a few weeks to spare.
There had even been concerns that Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, wouldn’t be able to host any matches.
“It was something that scared us a bit because Sao Paulo is the capital of football in Brazil. It’s the only thing that worried us a bit,” Pele said. “The rest of Brazil, no problem.”
Pele was also asked whether Neymar, a young striker at his old club Santos, would come play in the Premier League amid constant speculation linking him with a move to England.
“He’s a good player who could play in any team, but it’s hard to say if he’ll come to Europe or not,” Pele said. “Last year he had the same proposals but he decided to play another year in Brazil. And I think it was good for him, because to play in England I think it would have been a little complicated for him.
“The style of Neymar — in England, Germany, Italy — it’s a little complicated because the marking is very tight. I hope he stays in Brazil until the World Cup.”
Pele was in London to promote the New York Cosmos.