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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Maradona, Pele in furious bust-up
Pele and Maradona - head to head
Pele and Maradona - head to head
Arguably the two greatest footballers in history are at loggerheads after the publishing of their respective autobiographies.

Among the accusations Diego Maradona aims at Brazilian legend Pele are letting his team-mate Garrincha "die in misery" and having a gay affair with one of the youth coaches at his club Santos.

In turn, Pele brands the Argentinean guilty of "pure envy" and of making "ludicrous accusations."

The row began last year when Maradona first made the allegations about the homosexual relationship.


As a player he (Pele) had it, all but didn't make the most of it to raise the status of football
  Diego Maradona

In the Brazilian's book, Pele: His Life and Times, his close friend Celso Grellet says Pele thought about a response at the time but decided against a direct confrontation because of Maradona's health problems.

"Maradona had said that Pele had had a homosexual experience. It was never true, but Pele is a big man and decided that he would not respond.

Pele back in 1963
Pele back in 1963
"Pele is heavily involved in the anti-drugs campaign, particularly the abuse of drugs in sport, and Maradona was clearly an ill man. Pele thought it was best not to reply because no one could possibly take Maradona seriously.

"There is no doubt that Maradona has made ludicrous allegations, the one about Pele's sexuality being just one of many, as a result of pure envy."

Boot

In Maradona's new book, I Am Diego, he ranks Pele number one in his list of the top 100 players of all time - but cannot resist putting the boot in.

"As a player he had it all but didn't make the most of it to raise the status of football," he says.

"I'd have liked to see him put himself forward as president of an association to defend players' rights like I did. I'd like to have seen him look after Garrincha and not let him die in misery. I'd like to see him fight the rich and powerful that are damaging football."

In turn, Grellet traces Maradona's perceived bitterness to an incident involving former Argentinean president Carlos Menem.

Favourite

"Menem invited him to the country as his special guest because Pele was his favourite player," says Grellet.

Who - me?
Who - me?
"It angered Maradona that the Argentine people might place Pele above him.

"Pele has a lot of respect for Maradona as a player but felt that the media should not give any credence to the comments of an ill man.

"It would have been too easy to have said bad things about Maradona in return, but Pele would not do it. "

Maradona's comments can be read at www.umbro.com, where his book is serialised.

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See also:

16 Oct 00 |  Football
When sportsmen attack
14 Sep 00 |  Football
Maradona involved in car crash
24 Oct 00 |  Football
Maradona mouths off
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