Football: Pele plays joker on 2006 bid

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THE Brazilian Minister for Sport was in town yesterday, attending a charitable function in London's West End before flying on to Zurich for talks about the future of football as we know it with the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter.

The man who has recently given his name to the "Pele Law", bringing contractual controls to bear on Brazil's sportsmen and their clubs, found himself sharing a platform with Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan for a gentle question and answer session on behalf of 12-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Daniel Crawford.

Having correctly identified Italy as Brazil's opponents in the 1970 World Cup final, Pele moved on to the slightly thornier question of who should stage the 2006 World Cup.

"I think it should be where they have the best possibility to organise it because now, with 32 countries, it's very hard to organise," he said. "A lot of people are talking about Africa because it has never had the World Cup and we recently staged it in Europe so maybe that's the reason. But the only country in Africa that has the potential to stage the World Cup is South Africa."

Pele said the financial environment is now right for his own country to stage the tournament again one day, but as for England's chances in 2006 he said: "If they can share between Korea and Japan for the next World Cup, maybe they can share between Germany and England." With uncertain smiles breaking out all around, he hastily added: "That's a joke."