Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rooney Gets Pele's Seal of Approval

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rooney Gets Pele's Seal of Approval

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

He may have called time on his glittering career in 1977, but Pele still turns heads wherever he goes. Paul Gilder met the brilliant Brazilian during his flying visit to the North-East.

When Edson Arantes do Nascimento touched down on Tyneside with his right arm set in plaster, the scores of autograph hunters lurking hopefully on the doorstep of St James's Park knew that they faced an unsuccessful afternoon.

The disappointment quickly turned to awe for those fortunate enough to be granted an audience with world football's biggest name, the man universally known as Pele, in the North-East to promote the launch of a new photographic exhibition.

The South American superstar had reportedly been suffering from an old injury which was a hangover from his playing career.

Asked for his thoughts on a range of issues, with the discussion dominated by England's forthcoming trip to Turkey, a footballer whose remarkable career ended 26 years ago answered with infectious enthusiasm and a broad smile which captivated all who sat before him.

"I'm aware of Wayne Rooney," explained Pele, who, when asked if England could trust a 17-year-old in this weekend's Euro 2004 qualifier in Istanbul, pointed out that he had won the first of his three World Cups at the same age. "Even in Brazil we have heard of him. I have seen highlights on television in South America myself.

"I remember the first time I saw Michael Owen and it is a similar situation. Owen was probably 17 then and I just thought to myself `I like this boy'. He looked to be a good player then and I said he would have a bright future - he has since become one of the greatest in Europe.

"Do I have any advice for Rooney? When you first start out it's easy to play because people do not know you. Rooney is still new to people so he is still a surprise.

"When you become well-known, coaches, players and fans begin to ask things of you and make demands. …

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