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Brazil divided over renaming Maracana after Pele

Pele Source: Getty Images

Brazilians would agree that Pele is the greatest football player ever but they differ on renaming the historic Maracana stadium in his honour.

The stadium's name could soon change if Rio de Janeiro's governor agrees to pay tribute to three-time FIFA World Cup winner Pele.

Rio's state legislature voted 65-5 last week to give Gov. Claudio Castro the authority to rename the stadium after 80-year-old Pele, officially Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Rei Pele.

Castro would be removing the late journalist Mario Filho's name from the stadium, which has hosted two World Cup finals and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Castro has until next week to decide.

His spokeswoman, Denise Ribeiro, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the governor isn't ready to make a decision yet, as his priorities are in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but that he could decide this week.

Pele's spokesman, Joe Fraga, said only that they are monitoring the stadium situation.

The Brazilian star scored his 1000th goal at the Rio stadium on November 19, 1969, and it was at the Maracana that Pele at age 16 debuted for Brazil, on July 7, 1957.

That 2-1 defeat against Argentina also featured his first goal in the yellow shirt.

But most of Pele astonishing performances in Brazil were at Santos' tiny Vila Belmiro, outside Sao Paulo, about 500km from Rio.

The Rio stadium's official name is "Jornalista Mario Filho," after a Brazilian sportswriter credited with the idea to build such a colossus for the 1950 World Cup.

Filho's grandson, Mario Neto, told The Associated Press that he recognises the importance of Pele in Brazilian football culture but said the proposed change is "irrational."

Gerson, a teammate of Pele on Brazil's 1970 World Cup-winning team, said on his YouTube channel that the possible change in the Maracana's name is "absurd".

"Doesn't Pele already have a stadium named after him in Maceio (in Brazil's Northeast)? Why don't people give his name to the Santos stadium?" he said.

"All they need to do is to call the Vila Belmiro stadium King Pele and the problem is over."

Source AAP