HAVANA: Brazilian legend Pele backed Sepp Blatter’s re-election as FIFA president despite the corruption scandal embroiling world football’s governing body, saying it needed an “expert” chief.
“I was in favor,” Pele told journalists at Havana airport ahead of a match between the Cuban national team and his former club the New York Cosmos. “We needed an expert guy.”
Pele, the only player to win three World Cup titles, closed out his career in the 1970s at the Cosmos, who will play Cuba on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in an exhibition match symbolic of the thawing ties between the United States and its former Cold War foe.
It is the first visit to Cuba for the 74-year-old former star, who has recently faced a series of health problems.
He appeared at a press conference in Havana on Monday but attempts to question him further concerning the turmoil gripping world football were snuffed out by a moderator.
Blatter, FIFA’s president since 1998, was re-elected Friday to a new four-year term.
The vote came two days after US officials indicted 14 people, including nine current and former FIFA executives on charges of fraud, money laundering and bribery.
Pele had long been a supporter of Blatter during his re-election bid, saying the beleaguered football supremo had helped develop the sport in Asia and Africa during his 17-year reign and deserved a further term.