Money a 'danger' to football
Hong Kong - Brazilian football legend Pele warned on Monday that soaring players' salaries and powerful agents who squeeze clubs for higher fees represent a "danger for the future" of the game.
Speaking to reporters in Hong Kong, the three-time World Cup winner bemoaned the number of players pocketing big salaries only to "disappear" after a short career.
"Players should never forget to play for the love of the game and team... players love whoever pays a little bit more, that's the danger for football," he said, mock-kissing a badge on his blazer to illustrate his point.
"Sometimes I tease them (players) and say 'you get in one year what I would have to play 10 years to get'."
Decrying the role of agents in the modern game, the 70-year-old said: "They do not care if the player is good or not. They want to sell the player and get the money. That's the danger for the future of football."
Pele, considered by many to be the greatest footballer ever, also raised concerns over the potential impact of goal-line technology currently under discussion at FIFA.
"We need a little bit more time, football is not Formula One or tennis.
"It is about quick movement... you cannot stop a counter-attack to see if it was a goal," he said, stating his preference for an extra referee behind each goal to resolve disputes over penalties and balls crossing the line.
Pele does want one rule revised, to force players who foul around the penalty area to stand in a one-man wall in front of the ensuing free-kick.
Citing his famous mazy runs through the opposition as an example of the need for a rule change, the Brazilian said: "The last defender would make a foul on me... they put all nine players who I pass in the wall against me.
"Everybody I pass is now in front of me. That is not fair."
Pele, who amassed more than 1,200 goals in a career spanning three decades, was speaking on a promotional visit for the New York Cosmos, a revived club vying to join Major League Soccer in 2014.
Although they are yet to build a team, Cosmos officials are touring Asia to attract support, sponsors and potential investors for their return to US football.
Pele, the club's honorary president, featured for the first Cosmos team during three seasons in the 1970s at the end of his stellar career.
He said helping to rebuild the Cosmos would complete his "mission" to boost football's popularity in the United States.
The original New York Cosmos played from 1971 to 1985. But following the collapse of the North American Soccer League, the club's fortunes rapidly faded and it went out of business in 1985.
Targeting Asia makes sense for a new sports brand with global aspirations, according to Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley.
"People in Asia are very entrepreneurial and they love football," he said, adding the club had already identified a central New York site for a stadium.
Pele said the standard of Asian football had risen dramatically since he first toured the region with Brazilian club Santos.
"The level is fantastic, it's very hard to come here and play. What they need is an opportunity to win the World Cup, and the coaches and players to experience other leagues to raise their level," he said.