A life-size statue of football legend Pele commissioned for the stadium hosting the World Cup final in Brazil will not be installed in time for the tournament, the artist said on Thursday.
The piece by renowned Brazilian sculptor Ique was originally due to be installed inside Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium last year -- a deadline that was pushed back to this year and now appears to have been put on hold indefinitely, the artist said. (Also read: Pele fears unrest in Brazil will take its toll on World Cup tourists)
"Pele had just had hip surgery so the inauguration was pushed back from December 2013 to March 2014. Then in March the state secretary for sport who commissioned the project (Marcia Lins) left her job. Since then, I haven't heard anything," said Ique, whose given name is Victor Henrique Woitschach.
"The project's been politically abandoned. It shows a lack of respect for me and for Pele."
Asked if he had been paid for his work, he said: "I prefer you put that question to the governor."
The state secretary for sport's press office did not respond when contacted. But it told O Globo newspaper that the artist needed to sign a contract for the statue to be installed.
The 300-kilogram (660-pound) bronze is based on photos of a goal Pele scored in Brazil's 4-1 win against Czechoslovakia during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
Ique, who rose to prominence during his 30-year career as a caricaturist for Rio-based newspaper Jornal do Brasil, said it was now too late to install the statue before the World Cup kicks off on June 12.
The Maracana, the legendary stadium where Pele scored his 1,000th goal on November 19, 1969, has undergone extensive renovations to host the World Cup.
Pele, today 73, is considered the greatest footballer of all time by many. He won three World Cups with Brazil, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.