Maradona: Pele 'freezing me out' of FIFA
TOKYO (Reuters) -- Former Argentina World Cup winner Diego Maradona says there is no love lost between him and Brazilian soccer great Pele.
Talking to reporters in Tokyo in Monday, Maradona was typically forthright when asked about his relationship with Pele, whom he edged out to win a recent FIFA poll to select a World Cup dream team.
"Pele is a great politician. Some people say he has had a part in keeping me out of the FIFA family," said Maradona. "He can do that if he wants. He cares about me as much as I don't care about him."
The controversial 41-year-old, who is currently undergoing drug rehabilitation in Cuba, added: "I am sorry that Pele only came second in the FIFA poll to decide the best player. But what the people decide about me I cannot give to him."
Maradona received over 111,000 votes, almost 4,000 more than Pele in an internet poll conducted by FIFA last month. More than 1.5 million fans worldwide voted, according to the official FIFA website.
Maradona, the architect of Argentina's World Cup triumph in 1986, also criticised FIFA President Sepp Blatter for giving him the cold shoulder despite his status as one of the greatest players ever.
"If I am part of the FIFA family, then why was I only invited to come here at the end of the World Cup?" he asked. "I have ideas about improving the game which I would share with Blatter and (Michel) Platini but FIFA don't want to listen."
Maradona arrived in Japan on Friday after initially being denied entry because of his history of drug abuse. He watched Brazil beat Germany 2-0 in the World Cup final in Yokohama on Sunday.
"It was a stupid reason for not letting me come here. I didn't kill anyone. I didn't do anything bad to anybody, just to Maradona," he said.
Maradona, who was arrested for cocaine possession in 1991 and sent home in disgrace after failing a drug test at the 1994 World Cup, said his long-voiced concerns over refereeing standards had also fallen on deaf ears at FIFA.
"I have talked about the need for better referees for a long time. Now suddenly Italy and Spain have a problem with the refereeing, so they start to listen to Maradona," he said.
Italy and Spain both complained bitterly to FIFA for decisions they claimed resulted in their exit from the World Cup, both at the hands of co-hosts South Korea, who went on to reach the semi-finals.
But Maradona, who happily accepted the referee's verdict when he scored his famous "Hand of God" goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, had no sympathy for either team.
"The referee should make no difference when a great team like Spain or Italy are involved. They should have scored the goals when it mattered to avoid any confusion," he said.
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