Brazilian football legend Pelé asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to "stop the invasion" of Ukraine, in a letter posted on Instagram ahead of the 2022 World Cup play-off match between Ukraine and Scotland.
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"I want to use today's game as an opportunity to make a request: stop the invasion. There is absolutely nothing that justifies such violence,” wrote “King” Pelé in this letter to Mr. Putin.
“Today, Ukrainians try to forget, at least for 90 minutes, the tragedy that still affects their country. Trying to qualify for a World Cup is already a daunting task. It's almost impossible with so many lives at stake," added Pelé, who is undergoing chemotherapy for a colon tumor detected in September.
“I have lived eight decades, during which I have seen wars and hate speeches by leaders in the name of the security of their people. We can't go back to that time, we have to evolve,” insisted Pelé, 81, for whom the conflict in Ukraine is “perverse” and “unjustifiable”.
The triple world champion recalled that he had met President Putin in 2017, a year before the World Cup disputed in Russia: "we had exchanged big smiles, we had shaken hands for a long time".
“The power to stop this conflict is in your hands. The same hands I shook in 2017,” he concluded.
Earlier Wednesday, Pelé posted a photo of himself smiling while sitting in a wheelchair holding up a trophy alongside family members. “As always, I celebrate the small victories,” he wrote in the caption.
On his Instagram account, he regularly publishes old photos of his moments of glory, but few recent images. The last dated back to April 22.