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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 06:30 GMT
Tide turns on PelÚ
Ronaldo, PelÚ and Roberto Carlos
Happier times: PelÚ (centre) at a Fifa award ceremony
By the BBC's Tim Vickery

This is not a good moment for the many admirers of PelÚ.

Achievements on the field meant that the Brazilian star was placed on a pedestal.

But the concrete is now full of cracks, the result of a shabby accord with the very people he has spent the last few years attacking.

Both in his time as sports minister and as a private citizen, PelÚ has played the role of the moderniser.

He was the great man seeking to restore efficiency and morality to the ethically and financially bankrupt world of Brazilian football.

He frequently accused those running the game of corruption.

His particular target was Ricardo Teixeira, the President of the Brazilian FA (CBF), whom he accused of "dirty business".

PelÚ has sold his soul to the devil. And from an attitude like that there is no return
  JosÚ Trajano, Brazilian journalist

As sports minister, PelÚ was responsible for a bill which would have forced the clubs to become companies, with shareholders demanding to know what was happening to the club's money.

The clubs were horrified, and used their political power to water down the proposals.

"If those in charge of the clubs and federations had to account for their actions," said PelÚ in 1997, "then many people would be in prison."

Now there is a chance that they could be.

There are two Commissions of Inquiry in Brazil's Congress which are investigating the murky world of football in the country.

They have gained unprecented access into the bank accounts and phone records of club directors and federation officials.

There have been a stream of revelations, with the possibility of much, much more to come.

It is a moment when the old order could be swept away.

But instead of using his influence to bring in the new, PelÚ is riding to the rescue of the old.

Throughout his 12-year reign at the CBF, Teixeira's stock-in-trade has been bully boy arrogance.

I was very wrong to distance the entity which presides Brazilian football from its greatest ever exponent PelÚ
  Ricardo Teixeira, Brazilian FA president

Running scared of the Commission of Inquiry, he gave an extraordinary interview where he confessed to his sins and claimed that he had now seen the light.

"What has happened is a deep personal transformation on my part," he said.

"I saw that I was making terrible mistakes, and needed to change urgently.

"One of the most important changes is the realisation that I was very wrong to distance the entity which presides Brazilian football from its greatest ever exponent, PelÚ."

For his part, PelÚ has announced that he and Teixeira will now work together "for the good of Brazilian football."

The whole thing is clearly as phoney as a three pound note.

If Teixeira was sincere in his confessions, then resignation would be the coherent course.

If PelÚ was coherent in his criticisms, he would call for Teixeira's immediate resignation.

That PelÚ is participating in this is inadmissible. And deplorable
  Juca Kfouri, Brazilian columnist
Maybe PelÚ misjudged the mood, because the press reaction has been severe.

"The saddest aspect of the story," wrote veteran journalist JosÚ Trajano, "is the knowledge that PelÚ changed sides in order to take advantage" - a reference to the widespread suspicion that PelÚ's sports marketing company will do well from the new accord.

"The union between PelÚ and Ricardo Teixeira is the biggest knife in the back that the fight to moralise Brazilian football could receive.

"PelÚ has disappointed everyone; he has chosen to stay with what he himself has called the rotten side of football.

"PelÚ has sold his soul to the devil. And from an attitude like that there is no return."

Until last week, columnist Juca Kfouri was PelÚ's staunchest press ally.

Not any more. "To find a negotiated settlement at this stage is to betray the country," he wrote.

"An agreement of the elites of football will only serve to hide our evils and allow new partners in the division of the enormous cake that the game supplies.

"That PelÚ is participating in this is inadmissible. And deplorable."

When PelÚ scored the opening goal in the 1970 World Cup final, his Italian marker Burgnich marvelled at the fact that he seemed to be able to hover in the air.

But what was possible for the player may prove difficult for the citizen - it will not be easy for PelÚ to recapture the moral high ground.

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See also:

09 Feb 01 |  Football AV
Pele under attack
12 Dec 00 |  Football
Pele sad at Maradona snub
05 Feb 01 |  Football
Fighting for a new kind of freedom
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