FIFA president Infantino ‘dismayed’ over Pele selfie criticism

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said he is dismayed after receiving backlash for taking a selfie in sight of Pele’s open coffin at the public wake on Monday.

Pele died on Thursday aged 82, and mourners lined up to see Pele’s body in the centre of the field at the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of Santos Football Club.

Infantino was among the first to arrive for the service, but he was criticised after a photo emerged of him taking a selfie with Pele’s former teammates just metres from the former footballer’s body.

In a strongly worded post on Instagram, Infantino said: “Just landed from my trip to Brazil where I had the privilege to participate in the beautiful homage to Pele that took place at Vila Belmiro, in Santos. I am dismayed after having been informed that I am apparently being criticized by some people for having taken a selfie and pictures at the ceremony yesterday [Monday].

“I would like to clarify that I was both honoured and humbled that teammates and family members of the great Pele asked me if I could take a few photos with them. And obviously I immediately agreed.

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“In the case of the selfie, Pele’s teammates asked to do a selfie of all of us together but they didn’t know how to do it. So, to be helpful, I took the photo of one of them and took the photo of all of us for him.

“If being helpful to a teammate of Pele creates criticism I’m happy to take it and will continue to be helpful wherever I can to those having contributed to write legendary pages of football.

“I have so much respect and admiration for Pele and for that ceremony yesterday [Monday] that I would never do anything that would be disrespectful in any way whatsoever.

“I hope that those who published or said things without knowing and without seeking information could have the decency and admit they were wrong and correct what they said.

“The most important in any case is to pay tribute to King Pele, and whilst I humbly suggested that throughout our 211 member associations at least one football stadium or venue is named after him, we will set the example by giving the pitch in our headquarters the name “Estadio Pele — FIFA Zurich.” Um abraco e viva o Rei!”

Pele’s coffin will be taken to the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis cemetery on Tuesday where he will be buried in a private ceremony.

Pele, who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the past century, had been hospitalised for the past month with multiple ailments and had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021.