Pele has labelled Brazil's preparations for the upcoming World Cup "a disgrace" after mass protest, stadium delays and constant hiccups have threatened the nation's ability to run the tournament properly.
The Brazilian icon, who won three World Cups during his legendary career, isn't pleased with the South American country's incompetence, as reported by Carl Long of The Sun (subscription required) and via Paul Collins of the Daily Mail:
There has been significant time to get the stadiums finished. The situation is unacceptable – it is a disgrace. The political situation is difficult. Our team has nothing to do with the ongoing corruption that has delayed construction of the stadiums.
Pele continued by saying he is worried "a great deal," and that "the evil people who have stolen all the money are to blame." He also suggested "protests against corruption are understandable—but not the use of the force," as many cities due to host World Cup matches come under threat from the protesters' clashes with armed forces.
A police strike recently saw military troops drafted into Recife, Pernambuco, as reported by Donna Bowater of The Telegraph. Demonstrations continue to challenge the Brazilian government's questionable spending of money, which sees millions deployed on football stadia and facilities rather than schools, housing and other vital infrastructure.
Considering many parts of Brazil remain in poverty, the government's willingness to host a major competition appears to overlook the basic needs of its people. Nine laborers have died working on the new stadiums—three at the Sao Paulo Arena—leaving many members of the public further dejected.
Vanessa Couto, one of the Landless Workers’ Movement protesters, highlighted the group's feelings, per Bowater:
We went to [stadium construction firm] Odebrecht to say we will not accept the deaths of the workers in World Cup stadiums. We want to reverse the priorities of our government, we do not want million-reais stadiums, we want land reform, decent housing for all.
Of course, protests during the tournament are entirely likely, especially as last year's Confederations Cup was marred by masses of people flooding the streets. There's a feeling that the air only has to turn a little more sour before we see a major problem arise during the competition.
"The precise mood over the next couple of months is not easy to predict," writes Tim Vickery of BBC Sport. "There will certainly be protests. It is not clear, though, whether they will reach beyond the activist core."
Vickery suggests police behaviour could "inflame things," while an early exit for the home team would be a "nightmare scenario" when trying to calm tensions.
While the World Cup was originally handed to Brazil on the back of the nation's historic link to football, there's no denying things are likely to get worse before progress is made. This isn't shaping up to be the celebration of Brazilian sport and culture once promised; instead, it's throwing up a real opportunity for change.
Those protesting are not going to receive the funding they want—money has already been spent—but they could alter the course of this year's elections.
The Brazilian government and FIFA have nowhere to hide when a further 31 nations descend upon the country, as Pele's worries echo the feelings of many who take an active interest in the nation's well-being. Candidates looking to establish power in Brazil may use this unrest to their advantage.
Major sporting events always raise concerns—the same happened in 2010, when a crime-ridden South Africa hosted the World Cup—but Brazil's lack of organisation and disparity between the regime and its people is not something to scoff at. This isn't likely something that will simply blow over if the national team performs well.
A real sense of uncertainty surrounds the upcoming tournament. Pele's frustrations are symptomatic of a nation that will be under the spotlight with increasing intensity over the next few weeks, whether the team performs or not.