ABUJA — Brazilian   soccer legend and football’s world all-time great Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, popularly called Pele yesterday predicted that an African country could play in the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

ALL-4-SPORTS . . . Sports Minister, Engr. Sani Ndanusa (L), soccer legend, Pele of Brazil and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State charting ways for sports.

Pele in a chat, after presenting one of the bid documents for the Rio De Jenairo 2016 Olympic Games before the General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, the Brazilian noted that with the rising profile of African teams in world football he was sure Africa would do well at the 2010 World Cup.

He added that the excellent outing of South Africa and the USA at the just concluded Confederation Cup in South Africa has further demonstrated that there are no minnows in football again.

“If you remember, ten years ago I started mentioning about how football in Africa will grow and get better and better. Africa gets a lot of players in Europe and they have a lot of experience, and with adequate preparation it will not be a surprise to see Africa in the finals or the quarter-final at the South Africa 2010 World Cup.

“You can see that at the Confederation Cup, South Africa for the first time, was at the semi-final and United States was at the final. So there are no big teams in football now. All countries are equal. Now, we have to respect the developing countries”, Pele stated.

On the huge wages being paid players by clubs as salaries and sign-on fees,  Pele said there is need for players to be committed more to their teams than allowing the love for money to dictate their movement. He added that FIFA is also looking at ways of addressing that development.

“I agree with you, in my time we needed to play for ten years to get the kind of money being paid to young players in one year today, but it is a different life at the moment. During my time we did not have big companies investing in football.

“What we discussed in the committee of FIFA was that players should be more honest to themselves and the clubs because players at the moment are in the habit of changing clubs every year. They play in Europe and the next year they are in Madrid or go to Italy or England, and the next year they change the club again. It means they don’t have the love for the team but the love for money.

“So, that is what the new generation of players will have to pay attention to because no loyalty anymore, they are just looking for money, and that is the big problem we have to face in future”, he said.

While responding to questions on the Super Eagles, the Brazilian, noted that, “I’ve been here sometime ago, then it was a tournament in Nigeria, they had a good team and based on that, I hope Nigeria will still have a good team because the moment is very important.

“Nigerian players are good and they have excellent players in Europe and at the moment we have one year to prepare the team”, he said.

On what he is currently doing, Pele said, “I am working with kids in school and also with FIFA. At the moment I am a member of the FIFA Committee; again, six years ago I was a Minister of Sports and I have continued to make friends all over the world.


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