Football:Pele refuses to support Brazil

IF BRAZIL were expecting support from their greatest ever footballer in their campaign to secure the World Cup finals, they will have to think again. Pele said yesterday that he would not be supporting his country's bid to host the 2006 World Cup. "The Brazil bid for 2006 is a complete waste of money," he said, adding that Brazil would not be ready to host the tournament for another 10 years.

"The country might have been a candidate for the World Cup a few years ago when the economy was stable but it is not prepared for it now. If they asked me to help the bid I would refuse. I don't want to participate in any group trying to get the vote for 2006. Their intention is to get some money but not do a great deal of work for it."

Pele is the second member of the 1970 World Cup-winning team to publicly declare his opposition. Tostao, who played alongside Pele in the 1970 World Cup final, said last month he would not support the bid.

Five countries - Brazil, England, Germany, Morocco and South Africa - are still bidding to stage the finals. Fifa's Executive Committee will decide on the venue next March.

"I have the perfect solution," Pele said. "Why don't England and Germany co-host it like South Korea and Japan? I think that would be the answer."

Pele confirmed yesterday he has been in discussions with Media Partners over the possibility of forming a Brazilian Super League. Media Partners were forced to back out of their bid to set up a Super League competition in Europe after leading clubs decided to side with the sport's European governing body, Uefa. Now the company have turned their attention to Brazil, where a change in the law, made by Pele, has opened up the sport to business. "Yes we are discussing the matter with Media Partners," Pele said yesterday.

The Brazilian double World Cup winner was responsible for changing the country's law when, as Brazil's sports minister from 1995 to 1998, he introduced the so-called Pele Law. The legislation, which will come into force in March 2000, is designed to make Brazilian clubs more business- oriented although Pele admitted there were some concerns over the changes.

"Not only Media Partners but other groups in Brazil have come in to acquire teams, such as Vasco da Gama and Flamengo. There are a lot of companies now trying to acquire teams. In one way this is good. But the other side is the worry about creating a monopoly.

"If organisation was better then maybe we could protect young players in Brazil," Pele said. "Brazilian football is now really a supermarket for foreign clubs."

Closer to home, the Blackburn Rovers manager, Brian Kidd, wants to sign David Wetherall from Leeds United as part of a pounds 5m overhaul for his defence. Kidd sees the experienced centre-half as the ideal replacement for the Swiss defender Stephane Henchoz, who is set to leave. Wetherall has been in and out of the Leeds side for the past season. Blackburn are willing to pay around pounds 1.5m for him.

Kidd also has a pounds 3m bid in for another central defender, Aston Villa's Riccardo Scimeca. He hopes for an answer on that move shortly. Meanwhile, Steve Harkness is also due in for talks at Blackburn next week after Benfica's final game against Sporting Lisbon on Sunday. The former Liverpool left- back is prepared to come home in a pounds 750,000 move although he will face a tax problem after returning to Britain so quickly.

The ITV sports presenter Jim Rosenthal has joined a team of four businessmen in a new bid to rescue financially-troubled Oxford United. Rosenthal has been a long-standing supporter of Oxford. The other men are Oxford solicitor David Bower, George Bailey, managing director of Sotheby's and art restorer Hamish Dewar.

The quartet are willing to inject pounds 1.5m into United, who have just been relegated to the Second Division. Their bid rivals that of London hotelier Firoz Kassam, who has just appointed a team of financial advisors to try to sort out United's tangled pounds 13.5m debt crisis. Kassam will only complete development of Oxford's half-built new stadium if Oxford City Council agree to let him build a multiplex cinema and leisure complex alongside the ground.

In a clear clash of personalities Bower, another long-time United supporter who has been dealing with the club's legal affairs in recent months, said: "I have not been prepared to come on board with Mr Kassam because we have had a big bust-up. I don't like Mr Kassam and the way he has treated people." He added: "Manager Malcolm Shotton is tearing his hair out because he can't go after any players and has only 11 or 12 fit ones for next season. As it stands at the moment Oxford United might not even get into the League's fixture list for next season."