Pele, the Word's most famous footballer, yesterday gave Thierry Henry the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that the Frenchman's handball in the World Cup play-off against Republic of Ireland was a “mistake” rather than cheating.
Making the most of the photo opportunity, the FAI's top brass strategically placed themselves either side of Pele at a press conference in Dublin, but John Delaney and David Blood had to bite their tongues as the Brazlian gave his view on the Republic's Paris heartbreak.
Pele poured scorn on the FAI's efforts to have the match replayed because of Henry's blatant handball, describing their suggestion as “too complicated”.
The result, declared Pele, was unfair but the handball was not. “The result wasn't fair, no doubt, but everybody can make a mistake. Even him (Henry). He did it accidentally. I don't think he thought he was going to handle the ball.”
Pele refuted suggestions that FIFA's philosophy of fair play had been tarnished by the controversy. “We say ‘fair play' but I don't think it was unfair because (it happened) in one second,” he said.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, otherwise known as Pele, was in the Republic to help raise funds for Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin and the Little Prince Hospital in Curitiba, Brazil.
He also visited Ballymun and Dunboyne, Co Meath, to meet children who are participating in his fundraising ‘Goal for Life' campaign.
The football legend presented
both groups with a set of limited edition medals, valued at 1,800euros, which were manufactured to mark the 40th anniversary of his 1,000th goal, which he scored in 1969.
He dedicated that phenomenal achievement, known as 'O Milésimo', to Brazil's poor children.
Pele has worked in a number of ambassadorial and political roles since his retirement, but his charity work for children has always been a high priority for him, professing that God had given him the gift of scoring goals so he could use his fame to help the world's poorest and sickest children.
“I don't know why I scored so many goals. But God said you are going to score goals and then you are going to help children,” he said during his visit to Our Lady's Hospital. “If we start to really protect the kids we are going to have a better world.”
Pele is due to fly back to Brazil this morning following a hectic day.