Pele back in the limelight with Cosmos

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am

In his new role as honorary president of the New York Cosmos, Pele yesterday showed a Hong Kong audience he still had some moves, despite retiring more than 30 years ago.

Dubbed the world's greatest player, Pele led the Cosmos contingent into town and was moved to action at a press conference when asked about rule changes he would like to see in today's game.

'I would like to see players who foul around the penalty area forced to stand in a one-man wall in front of the upcoming free-kick,' the 70-year-old Brazilian said, before demonstrating how he would snake through a defence. 'The last defender commits a foul, but they put all nine players who I have passed in the wall against me. Everybody I pass is now in front of me. That is not fair.'

Pele raised concerns over players' inflated salaries, powerful agents and the use of goal-line technology.

'Players should never forget to play for the love of the game and the team,' he said. 'Sometimes I tease players and say they earn in one year what took me 10 years.'

He said agents did not care if players were good or not. 'They just want to sell them and get the money. It's a danger for the future of football.'

He also said more time was needed to decide if hi-tech aids were essential to rule on penalties and balls crossing the goal line. 'Football is not Formula One or tennis. It's about quick movement. You cannot stop a counter-attack to see if it was a goal.'

The Cosmos were a fixture on the US and international sporting landscape in the mid-1970s with a squad featuring the likes of Pele and West German legend Franz Beckenbauer. But when the North American Soccer League folded in 1984, shortly afterwards so did the Cosmos.

English businessman and former Tottenham Hotspur director Paul Kemsley recently acquired both the Cosmos name and brand in the hope of getting a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise and brought in Pele and Manchester United Player of the Century Eric Cantona as director of soccer. He became chairman.

'We are excited to be here and to let everyone know the New York Cosmos are back,' said Kemsley. 'People in Asia are very entrepreneurial and they love football.'

Although the earliest they could enter the MLS would be in 2013, Kemsley claims Cosmos have identified an area in New York for a stadium and have already established an academy for youngsters. They are touring Asia to drum up interest among a new generation of fans, as well as to develop relationships with potential sponsors and investors.

Among today's events is a luncheon with the American Chamber of Commerce and a clinic at the Hong Kong Football Club.

For Pele, his work with the reincarnated Cosmos is a matter of unfinished business. 'I'm here with my chairman because he wants to help me complete my mission,' he said.

'I was a champion with Santos, then with Brazil, then with the New York Cosmos, and that was it, I was not supposed to come back. But my mission is to make soccer even bigger in the United States through the New York Cosmos and Paul has convinced me to come back again.'