CANNES, France (AFP) – Football legend Pele on Wednesday waded into a bitter debate about the future of Brazil’s Maracana stadium, saying the famous venue should not be privatised.

Asked on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival what he thought of plans to sell the concession to operate Maracana, Pele said: “I don’t agree.”


“The stadium belongs to the people, the Brazilian people,” he told AFP.

Pele was speaking during a promotional push for a planned movie about his life, intended for release in time for the 2014 World Cup.

One of football’s greatest players, Pele rose from a life of poverty to help Brazil to its first-ever World Cup victory in 1958.

Maracana, which was built for the 1950 World Cup, is undergoing renovation at a cost of $430 million to the Brazilian government.

It will host four Confederations Cup matches in June as well as seven World Cup games next year, including the finals of both tournaments. In 2016, it will host the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics.

The process to sell the stadium concession has been caught in a legal wrangle.

Prosecutors had filed an appeal for the process to be blocked, denouncing “lack of fairness” in the terms offered to the 21 bidders.

But the appeal was tossed out by a local court on April 11.

The winner must invest $300 million to upgrade the area around the arena and pay the state government $2.25 million per year over 35 years.

But it can be guaranteed net profits of $715 million over 35 years, according to a study made for the bidding process.

The renovation will convert Maracana into a multi-purpose arena featuring bars, restaurants and shops. It also involves the demolition of a former indigenous museum and some athletic facilities near the arena.

In other comments, Pele paid a tribute — of a kind — to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, whose own biopic is in the pipeline for the World Cup.

“Outside of Brazil, he is the best,” Pele said.


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