The legendary Pele of Brazil surprised some fans on April 2 when he claimed that grassroots youth soccer in America is actually better than it is in his homeland. Pele told the press, “People should be careful because I think here in the United States today they play more soccer than they play in Brazil. It’s important the American kids know that. We don’t have the same support that they have in college and university.”
The powerful striker added that soccer is becoming a huge sport in the United States and there are more kids playing in organized games and leagues than there are in Brazil and other South American nations such as Uruguay and Argentina. This is probably a debatable issue as U.S. Youth Soccer claim that there are over three million registered children playing the game in with their affiliated teams. However, this doesn’t include those who are playing in AYSO programs, high school and college.
Pele added that he’s impressed with the number of females who play soccer in America and believes they’re already better than Brazilian women. “In the base, in the college, in the women, you already passed Brazil. The women in the United States play better than Brazil.”
Once the topic turned to the upcoming World Cup this summer, he remarked that it’s now time to focus on the game itself rather than the accusations of alleged political corruption and the stadium construction delays. He believes Brazil will host a fantastic World Cup and reminds fans that several other nations had to endure delays and missed deadlines when building some of their stadiums. He then paid the U.S. another compliment by saying, “The only World Cup that was fantastic with every single game, was the best organized, was in the United States.”
He blamed the delays on political corruption and said it has nothing to do with the country’s players and clubs. “We must pay attention with the money, the public money. They stole. They made a lot of bad things. But we have to protect the football.”
Of course Pele was then asked who he feels the best player in the world is today and he mentioned a few names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi and Neymar. But the ever-confident Brazilian cheekily added that none of them are better than he was.