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Pele's Presence Likely : World Cup Role Near Certain as Rift Cools With FIFA Chief

May 18, 1994|CHRIS DUFRESNE

A World Cup celebration without Pele?

Say it ain't so, Joao.

The possibility once seemed real because of a personal grudge between Pele and Joao Havelange, president of FIFA, soccer's international governing body.

But apparently the rift has cooled enough so that soccer's greatest name will be allowed to lend his legend to the World Cup effort in the United States.

Havelange would not allow Pele to participate in last December's World Cup draw at Las Vegas because Pele is embroiled in a lawsuit with Havelange's son-in-law, who is president of the Brazilian soccer federation.

The dispute involves Pele's attempt to get television rights to the World Cup in Brazil, the country he helped lead to three World Cup titles.

According to Julio Mazzei, Pele's manager, Havelange and the soccer star made up at the CONCACAF convention at Trinidad and Tobago in April.

Pele was there as a guest speaker.

"When he walked to the stage, Dr. Havelange stood up," Mazzei said, explaining the situation as told to him by Pele. "He was there. He opened his hands and arms and walked toward Pele. I said to Pele, 'What happened?' He said. 'Professor, I could not avoid him. In front of everybody, we embraced. And we threw roses at each other. Havelange said for the good of soccer, we should be the same friends we were before.' "

Mazzei said the dispute between Pele and Havelange's son-in-law has not been resolved.

But the truce comes as a relief to World Cup USA.

"It wouldn't be a World Cup without Pele on the scene," Jim Trecker, senior vice president and press officer for the World Cup USA, said from New York.

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