Old rivals Pele, Maradona seek ‘peace’

LEGENDS: Pele, right, and Diego Maradona attend a soccer event on the eve of the opening of the UEFA 2016 European Championship in Paris, France, Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 June 2016
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Old rivals Pele, Maradona seek ‘peace’

PARIS: Diego Maradona hailed his old rival Pele as an “icon” as the pair were reunited for a “match of friendship” on Thursday.
The 75-year-old Brazil great and 55-year-old Argentine legend even embraced during the five-a-side exhibition game in a sign that they have drawn a line under their long-running feud.
“I want to thank Pele, we know who he is and who he will always be. We need icons like him,” said Maradona, who starred in Argentina’s 1986 World Cup triumph.
Pele, a three-time world champion, also struck a conciliatory tone in response.
“The most important is the message of peace. Many thanks to my friend Maradona for this opportunity and a big round of applause to the players who have been here today,” said Pele.
“This is a moment of peace.”
It was a far cry from the acrimony between them when FIFA was trying to decide the player of the 20th Century in 2000.
The world body organized an online vote, which Maradona easily won. But FIFA thought the online users at the time were too young and so the vote was skewed in Maradona’s favor.
It then organized a vote by readers of the FIFA magazine and cast by an international jury. This time Pele won by a landslide.
FIFA decided to split the award and named Pele and Maradona as the two greatest players of all time.
“I had the vote of the people, Pele won by forfeit,” said Maradona, who walked out of a Rome gala so he did not see the Brazilian collect his award.
Maradona later accused Pele of letting his former Brazil teammate Garrincha “die in misery.” Pele responded that Maradona was “sick.”
Maradona thrilled the crowd at the Palais Royal with a cameo appearance in the 30-minute five-a-side contest. Pele, still recovering from a hip operation in January, remained in his coaching role on the touchline.
The event, organized by a Swiss watchmaker with UEFA, featured the likes of former France striker David Trezeguet, Italy goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi and Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf.
Ex-Brazil forward Bebeto, a 1994 World Cup winner, also took part alongside Rio Ferdinand, Dida, Hernan Crespo and Fernando Hierro as the match finished in a diplomatic 8-8 draw.


Iran assures FIFA that women can attend football qualifier

Updated 22 September 2019

Iran assures FIFA that women can attend football qualifier

  • FIFA traveled to Iran ahead of the weekend for talks on the matter of women and football
  • The Islamic republic has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums since 1981

MILAN: FIFA has been “assured” that Iran will lift its 40-year ban and allow women to attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

Football’s governing body wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums that breaches international football statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a football stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

“There is women’s football in Iran but we need Iranian women as well to be able to attend the men’s game,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a speech at a conference on women’s football on Sunday. “And we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way. We cannot wait anymore.

“We have been assured, that as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums. This is something very important, it is 40 years that this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions, but it is important to move to the next level and to the next stage.”

FIFA sent an inspection team to Iran this week to meet government and football officials ahead of Iran’s match against Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10 — its first home match of the 2022 qualifying competition.

Infantino’s comments drew praise from United States outgoing coach Jill Ellis, who was at the same FIFA conference in Milan, two months after leading the American women’s team to a second successive World Cup title.

“I think it’s huge,” Ellis said. “FIFA has enough of a pull and ability to influence change and I think it’s absolutely the right thing. I mean I don’t think there should be any discrimination period and to not allow women to go see football I think is, I just can’t even wrap my brain around it in terms of it being something. I think if FIFA can influence that, I think it’s great.”