Pele will not be taking part in tomorrow’s World Cup draw, although he will be in the audience, he said last night, adding that he was worried about landing Brazil in a difficult group.
“President Dilma [Rousseff] suggested that I represent Brazil when it came to pulling the balls out of the pots, which I’ve done several times before,” said the Selecao legend.
“I preferred to turn down the offer because I wouldn’t feel comfortable in picking out balls which are not favourable to Brazil.”
Pele has earned a reputation in Brazil as a “pe-frio”, literally “cold foot”, although he gave a sarcastic response to a reporter who asked him about it. “I won five world titles, two with Santos and three with the national team and I scored more than 1,000 goals, so you’re right, I’m a cold foot,” he said. “I will be there, God willing,” Pele added. “I will give interviews, accompany the delegations from abroad and do what is necessary, representing President Dilma.”
Draw organisers said on Monday that Pele would make an appearance in some shape or form, adding that he would provide the “wow factor”.
Meanwhile, protesters have been warned that they will face a hail of rubber bullets if they engage in violent, unplanned protests during next year’s World Cup.
Only six months remain until the start of the tournament, but questions remain over security and the stadia being used in Brazil. More than a million protesters, angry at the money the government has spent on the World Cup, among other issues, spilled on to the streets of Brazil during the Confederations Cup in the summer.
Some of those protests turned ugly. Police used batons and water cannons to try to repel the protesters and, in some cases, they even fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the angry mob.
Although rubber bullets are obviously less lethal than metal ones, they can kill. Anarchist movement Black Bloc have warned that they will try to interrupt proceedings during the World Cup, and security is tight around the plush Costa do Sauipe resort where the draw is taking place tomorrow.
But, should they cause trouble next summer, protesters will be met with force, according to World Cup security adviser Andre Pruis. “If crowds get violent, do you think a water cannon is going to disperse them?” he said, shrugging his shoulders “You have to disperse them. A rubber bullet is a low level of action. It hurts, but what are police going to do? Use a pea shooter? Or water cannons? It doesn’t work up to a point.”
The other main concern for organisers is regarding stadia. Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke said earlier this week that the venues in Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Cuiaba would not be ready in time for the deadline at the end of the year.
A crane at the Sao Paulo stadium collapsed last week, killing two people. Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo Aldo is not concerned about the possibility of the venues not being ready, though.
“There are some problems, in Sao Paulo and Curitiba, but nothing that will compromise the delivery of the stadia,” he said. “We will have time to hold test events if the stadia are delivered in January.”