Retired Brazilian football legend Pelé has attracted criticism and derision on social media for his calls for thousands of protesters to leave the streets and focus on football.
In a brief broadcast via the O Globo TV network, Pelé said: “Let’s forget all this commotion happening in Brazil, all these protests, and let’s remember how the Brazilian squad is our country and our blood.”
Demonstrators have taken to the streets over the past week in the largest mass protests the country has seen in 20 years. Yesterday, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro agreed to revoke the increase in public transportation fares that initially sparked the unrest, which has grown to encompass dissatisfaction over poor public services, inflation and corruption.
Brazil is currently hosting the Confederations Cup, seen as a test run before it hosts the World Cup next year, which is expected to bring 600,000 visitors to the country.
Pelé is regarded by many experts, football fans, former players and current players as the best player of all time. However, his image has been tarnished in recent years, with his recent comments drawing criticism as many believe he has forgotten how ordinary Brazilians live.
One social media user wrote: “Go to the hospitals, take a bus with no security, then I want to see if you keep saying stupid things.” Another poster responded with: “Pelé, your ignorance is in proportion with your footballing genius.”