Pele rejects "slavery" comment by FIFA chief

July 12, 2008

STOKE, England -- Pele dismissed FIFA president Sepp Blatter's comment that soccer players are often bound to teams in a form of "modern slavery."

Blatter spoke in response to Cristiano Ronaldo's standoff with Manchester United over a move to Real Madrid, saying players seeking a transfer should be allowed to leave. Blatter told Sky News that "in football there is too much modern slavery."

"You are a slave if you work without a contract or you don't get paid," said Pele, a three-time World Cup winner with Brazil. "If you have a contract then in any job you have to finish the contract. I think that when he finishes his contract, then he should be free to go wherever he wants to go."

Ronaldo has almost four years left on his contract. While no transfer request has been submitted, the 23-year-old player of the year in England has said he would like a transfer to Madrid.

Pele was in Stoke on Saturday for a charity game in support of a foundation by former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks. At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Banks stopped a shot by Pele that is considered one of the greatest saves in soccer history.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press