SAO PAULO — Soccer great Pele did not attend a ceremony Thursday to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil's historic 1970 World Cup winning team. The Brazilian has suffered with mobility problems for years, which has forced him to use walkers and wheelchairs in public.
Nine players of that Brazil squad of almost 50 years ago were present at the headquarters of the country's soccer confederation in Rio de Janeiro, but the 79-year-old Pele only took part on video.
His spokesman, Pepito Fornos, said it was already agreed that Pele would not show up for the unveiling of his statue, which was made by a London-based company and is life sized.
"When it comes to beauty, the statue is much more beautiful," Pele jokingly said in a video previously filmed at his house in Guaruja, outside Sao Paulo. "I thank God for having the health during this tribute, this moment."
One of Pele's sons told Brazilian media last week that his father was somewhat depressed for not being able to move freely since hip surgery in 2012.
Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, known as Edinho, also told Globo Esporte that Pele "does not feel like leaving home" and "feels embarassed, shy" because of his physical difficulties.