Brazilian legend Pele has launched a scathing attack on the preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in his homeland, describing them as "a disgrace" and blaming corruption for the delays in handing over stadiums.
The three-time World Cup winner's comments come as construction at three of the 12 stadiums being used for the tournament is yet to be finished just three weeks out from the opening game.
That opening game between Brazil and Croatia on June 12 will take place at the Arena de Sao Paulo, which along with Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal and Curitiba's Arena da Baixada, have yet to be completed.
A Brazilian league game between Figueirense and Corinthians was used as a test event at the stadium in Sao Paulo last Sunday, but rain during the game left some of the 36,000 fans sitting under an unfinished roof drenched, while the 3G network broke down leaving mobile phone communication impossible.
FIFA has ordered an additional test event take place at the stadium on May 28 to test it at its full 68,000 capacity.
FIFA had set a deadline of December 31 for all the venues to be completed but preparations have been dogged by delays, while several workers have been killed at a number of venues including the Arena de Sao Paulo, which saw two killed when a crane collapsed in November, while another man died in March when installing temporary stands.
The problems appear to be causing Pele, who is a special advisor to the World Cup Organising Committee, some consternation.
"The political situation is difficult," he told German sports magazine Sport Bild.
"The situation worries me.
"There has been sufficient time to bring the stadiums to completion.
"It is a disgrace."
The 73-year-old added that he sympathised with protesters who have taken to the streets again across Brazil demonstrating against alleged political corruption and a perceived lack of investment in public services such as schools and hospitals, as well as better living conditions.
The protests have led to some violent clashes with Brazilian police, similar to those that originally took place during the Confederations Cup last summer.
"The protests against the corruption at the construction sites are understandable; violence is not," added Pele.
"I blame the evil people who have stolen all the money."
FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke is currently in Brazil on a 12-day tour of each of the venues and appeared to dismiss anti-World Cup protests claiming there is a "groundswell of support" for the tournament.
Brazil has spent more than $11 billion (£7 billion/€8 billion) to organise the month-long event and last week the Brazilian Government optimistically forecast that World Cup tourist spending in June and July may exceed $3 billion (£1.8 billion/€2.2 billion).
Brazil was awarded the 2014 World Cup in 2007 but earlier this year, FIFA President Sepp Blatter declared that no previous host country has "been so far behind in its preparation".
The World Cup, the first to be held in Brazil since 1950, is scheduled to take place from June 12 to July 13.
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