Brazil is overspending on this summer’s World Cup, diverting money that could have been used to build schools, roads and hospitals.
That assessment comes not from one of the thousands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets protesting the tournament but from Brazilian soccer icon Pele, widely regarded as the best player of all time.
“It’s clear that, politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot. And in some cases more than it should have been,” Pele said during a talk at Anahuac University in Mexico City.
Brazil has spent more than $11 billion on World Cup preparations, yet many infrastructure projects remain incomplete, and stadium construction, originally due to be finished last year, also has run well behind schedule.
“Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals,” Pele continued. “Brazil needs it. That’s clear. On that point I agree. But I lament what protesters are doing, which is breaking and burning everything. It’s money that we will have to spend again.”
Pele, who helped Brazil to three of its record five World Cup victories, has grown increasingly critical of preparations as the tournament nears. Local organizers had counted on his celebrity to help put a positive spin on the event, but corruption, poor planning and cronyism have soured the 73-year-old, who says the event may actually hurt tourism and Brazil’s global image.
“We already know that 25% of foreigners who are going to Brazil are worried about [protests]. So this is a great loss for the country,” he said.
As for the opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, Pele expressed concern.
“The first match is going to be in the Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo,” he said. “But there’s a problem because it’s not finished yet.”