REUTERS - Pele will join Friday’s clear-the-air meeting between FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, soccer’s world governing body said on Wednesday.
Blatter will travel to Brasilia to try to patch up differences after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke infuriated the Brazilians by saying organisers needed “a kick up the backside” over slow preparations.
“I am very pleased that the legendary Pele will join us for this important meeting”, said Blatter in a statement
“We will discuss the status of preparations and what needs to be done over the next few months to achieve the common goal of FIFA and the Brazilian government to stage a great FIFA Confederations Cup in June 2013 and a successful 2014 FIFA World Cup.”
The announcement came two days after Ricardo Teixeira quit as president of the Brazilian Football Confederation and head of the local organising committee.
Pele had a frosty relationship with Teixeira, who failed to invite the great former Brazil striker to the draw for the World Cup qualifying competition in Rio de Janeiro last year.
However, Rousseff then appointed Pele as the country’s official World Cup ambassador.
The animosity between Pele, widely regarded as the best ever footballer, and Teixeira has its roots in the early 1990s when Pele was critical of Teixeira’s then father-in-law Joao Havelange, president of FIFA at the time.
Havelange snubbed Pele by not inviting him when the draw for the 1994 World Cup finals was made in Las Vegas in late 1993.
Brazil is struggling to prepare for the World Cup. Stadium construction was slow to get started and costs have ballooned. More worryingly, vital infrastructure projects such as hotels, roads and airports are way behind schedule.
However, Valcke’s remarks caused uproar in Brazil, prompting the government to notify FIFA it would no longer accept the Frenchman as the world soccer governing body’s point person for the 2014 World Cup.
Reporting by Brian Homewood in Zurich; Editing by Ed Osmond