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Peter Stevenson reports from Rome on the Pele-Maradona saga
 real 56k

Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 10:10 GMT
Pele sad at Maradona snub
Pele hoped to share the stage with Maradona
The rivalry between Diego Maradona and Pele raised its head again when the Argentina star left the Fifa award ceremony before the Brazilian received his "Player of the Century" award in Rome.

Fifa officials had defused the embarrassing situation over who should be named Player of the Century by giving awards to both three-time World Cup winner Pele and Maradona.

The governing body originally planned to name only one "Player of the Century" with the winner being decided from a combination of votes from Fifa's website, the body's magazine and a grand jury.

But amid reports that a cyber-blitz by Maradona fans had the self-confessed cocaine addict leading with 78,000 votes ahead of Pele on 26,000, the awards were split up into an Internet Player of the Century and a Fifa Jury Player of the Century.


And after originally threatening not to attend the ceremony, Maradona left the gala dinner after receiving the internet award and before Pele received his accolade.

"I want to go home," said the 40-year-old, who left accompanied by his wife Claudia and his agent.

Maradona also hit out at the decision to award Zinedine Zidane the World Player of the Year Award, before explaining his early departure.

He said: "In a trio of Zidane, Rivaldo and Figo, Rivaldo should get it easily. I don't agree at all with Fifa's decision.

"I had a pleasant night in Rome, where I met old football friends, such as Paolo Rossi and Tardelli.

"It was nice to get a warm welcome from Sepp Blatter. But I didn't like the fact that I had to go on before Pele. I just didn't like it. I grabbed my prize and left."

Pele said: "I would have liked Maradona to be there to join me on the platform, but he had already left."

Maradona had earlier thanked Fifa for respecting the votes of the people, adding that he dedicated his trophy to: "The Argentinian people, Fidel Castro, my wife Claudia and all the players in the world that I love and respect.

"The people voted for me. I feel good in my head, serene. I'm happy and proud."

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