Rio de Janeiro - Pele and Zico have signed an open letter calling for change at the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), starting with the departure of its president, who is facing corruption charges in the United States.
Hours later Marco Polo Del Nero went before the Senate on Wednesday to defend himself against the accusations, saying: "I am unjustly accused, but that is not surprising. I defend myself with absolute certainty of my innocence.
"I have nothing to hide."
The 74-year-old Brazilian football chief asked to be placed on leave at the beginning of this month "to dedicate himself to preparing his defence" in the US case and a separate FIFA ethics inquiry.
The US corruption investigation -- part of a broader probe into multimillion-dollar corruption over decades at world governing body FIFA -- also targeted Del Nero's predecessors at the head of the CBF, Jose Maria Marin (2012-2015) and Ricardo Teixeira (1989-2012).
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Marin pleaded not guilty in a US court Wednesday -- conspiracy, fraud and money laundering are among the 12 charges the 83-year-old faces.
"We demand the definitive resignation of Marco Polo Del Nero and his directors followed by free and democratic elections," read a statement following an initiative by Bom Senso FC ("Common Sense FC"), a collective of current and former players led by 1994 World Cup winner Rai.
Among the 130 signatories of the letter were the recently retired goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, the coach Tite and the prominent singer-songwriter Chico Buarque.
The letter also called for the elections to be held "without the current electoral threshold, a mechanism which prevents the emergence of independent positions in the system because it demands candidates obtain eight signatures from federations and five from clubs."
The letter also called for the Brazilian authorities to open their own investigation into the corruption allegations.