By Samindra Kunti in Sao Paulo
January 6 – Following a media storm, Ricardo Kaka has failed to explain why he did not attend Pelé’s funeral procession. Kaka, Ronaldo and other World Cup-winners as well as Neymar have been heavily criticized for failing to pay their last respect to Pele in Santos.
Brazilians bade farewell to the country’s finest football player and ambassador in huge numbers in the port city, but former Brazilian players were notably absent at the funeral and endured a media backlash. One of the players singled out for criticism, Kaka, while apologising for his absence, still failed to explain why he had not made his way to the Vila Belmiro where Pele lay in state for 24 hours before a private burial.
During the World Cup in Qatar, Kaka had said that Brazilians didn’t honour their idols.
“The statement was again remembered now on the occasion of the death and wake of our dear King Pelé, a person I have enormous admiration for, and from whom I received the greatest individual title of my career,” said Kaka. “That night, he said that only he could make that moment even better. As a Brazilian and a football lover, my respect and admiration will remain and I’m really sorry I didn’t go to Santos.”
Kaka attended the World Cup as a pundit for beIN Sport where he had accused Brazilians of not caring for former greats, but he now tracked back on that statement, explaining that “during the World Cup, a statement of mine was made in a context, but unfortunately it was circulated as a criticism of everyone. That was never my intention. Nor could it be, mainly because the Brazilian people have always treated me with a lot of love.”
As young player, Kaka won the World Cup in 2002, but not a single player from the squad went to Pele’s funeral. Goalkeeper Marcos said that no one had come to burial of his parents. With the exception of Mauro Silva, 1994 World Cup-winners also shunned the burial in Santos where almost a quarter of a million filed past Pele’s casket. Just 48 hours after his inauguration, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flew to Santos to pay his respects.
Widely considered the greatest player of all time, Pele won the World Cup three times with Brazil. He passed away last week at the age of 82 following a battle with colon cancer.
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