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|December 12, 2000||
Pele and Maradona win FIFA century awards
Pele and Diego Maradona have been recognised by soccer's world governing body FIFA as the greatest players of the 20th century.
Pele topped a "football family" poll -- FIFA officials, national team coaches and journalists -- while Maradona was favoured by fans who cast their votes on FIFA's official Web site.
Maradona won 53.60 per cent of the Internet vote while Pele secured just 18.53 per cent.
However the Brazilian dominated the poll with 72.75 per cent, ahead of former Real Madrid forward Alfredo Di Stefano on 9.75 per cent. Maradona was third with 6.0.
Both Pele and Maradona attended a gala in Rome to receive their awards, which have triggered fierce debate between Argentines and Brazilians over the past week.
FIFA initially planned to name just one player of the century and Argentines, spurred by media reports, were convinced Maradona had won it.
That outraged Brazilians who claimed the terms of the web-based vote were unfair and claimed the Argentine Football Federation had led a concerted campaign to swing the vote Maradona's way.
FIFA, apparently anxious to defuse the controversy, then announced on its web site the award would be for a "player of the decade."
It then changed tack again and said the change was simply due to a typing error. "It (the announcement on the web site) should have read decades rather than decade," an association spokesman said, implying the terms of the vote never changed.
Pele played in four World Cups including two finals, both of which he won.
Maradona also played in four including one losing final and one winning one.
Maradona snubs Pele at awards ceremony
Diego Maradona walked out of the FIFA awards ceremony before his great rival Pele got up on stage to receive recognition as one of the two greatest players of the 20th century.
In what appeared to be a clear snub to the Brazilian, Maradona left the gala event in Rome early after collecting his own prize as the best player of the century as voted by fans on FIFA's official web site.
When Pele took the stage to accept a parallel prize based on votes by FIFA officials, journalists and coaches, he was faced with Maradona's empty front row seat.
"I would have liked to have had Maradona up here on stage with me but it looks like he's already gone," the great Brazilian said.
When pressed, Pele declined to name the Argentine as the best player of the past century while Maradona only named Pele alongside a host of other players.
The volatile Argentine, who flew in from Buenos Aires for the ceremony, dedicated his victory to his compatriots, his wife, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and "all the footballers of the world whom I respect with all my soul".
Asked who he would have chosen as the century's greatest player, Maradona said that as an Argentine he would be tempted to choose Di Stefano, part of the great Real Madrid side of the 1950s and 1960s.
"But I would also have to admit the merits of Platini, Pele, Cruyff, Rivaldo...," he said, before leaving the stage and the hall.
Mail Sports Editor
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