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Sunday, January 16, 2005
Romario issues apology to Pele

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Former World Cup forward Romario apologised to Pele on Saturday for telling him to put a shoe in his mouth.

'I would like to take this chance to apologise to Pele for what I said,' he told reporters before taking part in a friendly match in Rio de Janeiro. 'I didn't mean to say what I said. He's still the King.'

The controversy began earlier this week when Pele was reported as suggesting that Romario, who will be 39 at the end of this month, should retire now to avoiding blighting a career which includes winning the 1994 World Cup.

On Friday, Romario hit out at Pele and said he was 90 percent certain to sign a deal with Vasco da Gama, the club where he began his career.

'When Pele's quiet, he's a poet,' Romario told reporters on Copacabana beach after training for a beach soccer match. 'But he just talks shit.'

'On the field, he was the greatest player in history, he was our king. But he should put a shoe in his mouth.'

Romario has been without a club since he was fired by Fluminense in October, following a season in which he has struggled for match fitness, clashed with his coaches and been involved in controversy about his much-publicised privileges.

Earlier on Saturday, Pele tried to defuse the situation.

'I'm a Romario fan,' said Pele from Spain where he spoke before Real Madrid unveiled their Danish signing Thomas Gravesen.

'I don't know what they told him but it's true that I was asked in an interview when the time to retire was and I said when you are at the top of your career,' he said.

'Although I could have played on longer I left Cosmos, Santos and Brazil when I was a champion. Romario misunderstood what I said and got upset. I apologise if he took it the wrong way. He's small and highly strung, but I've got nothing against him.'

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