Gianni Infantino posing for a photo with attendees at the funeral of Pele ©Getty Images

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has defended himself from criticism for taking photographs at the funeral of Brazilian football icon Pelé, stating the player's family members and friends requested selfies with him.

Photos surfaced of the world football head smiling for pictures with attendees close to Pelé's coffin in Vila Belmiro in the São Paulo municipality of Santos, who he later clarified were team-mates of him in a post on Instagram.

Journalists called him "lamentable" and accused him of "indignity" on Twitter.

Upon landing back in Europe, Infantino pushed back against criticism of the photographs, defending his decision to do so.

"I am dismayed after having been informed that I am apparently being criticised by some people for having taken a selfie and pictures at the ceremony yesterday," said Infantino on Instagram.

"I would like to clarify that I was both honoured and humbled that team-mates and family members of the great Pelé asked me if I could take a few photos with them.

"In the case of the selfie, Pelé's team-mates asked to do a selfie of all of us together but they didn't know how to do it. 

"So, to be helpful, I took the phone of one of them and took the photo of all of us for him.

"If being helpful to a team-mate of Pelé creates criticism I'm happy to take it and will continue to be helpful wherever I can to those having contributed to write legendary pages of football."

Yesterday, the Swiss-Italian said every country in the world should name one of its stadiums after the Brazilian, who is regarded as one of the greatest-ever players in football.

The latest controversy follows on from criticism thrown at the FIFA President following the World Cup in Qatar, which was lambasted for the hosts' treatment of migrant workers, women and LGBTQ people.

On the eve of the tournament, Infantino said: "Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arabic, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel [like] a migrant worker."

He then compared the discrimination of these groups to when he was bullied as a child for his hair colour.

Issues continued during the World Cup, culminating with the appearance of Turkish butcher Nusret Gökçe, best known as "Salt Bae" after becoming a worldwide meme for sprinkling salt.

Infantino allowed his close friend Gökçe on the pitch during the FIFA World Cup Final celebrations, with the restaurant owner using the opportunity to pose with players and hold the trophy, which is regarded as sacred in the sport.

Pelé is regarded as one of football's greatest players ©Getty Images
Pelé is regarded as one of football's greatest players ©Getty Images

Pelé died at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer on Thursday (December 29).

The striker spent the majority of his club career at Santos, scoring 618 league goals in 636 matches.

He lifted the FIFA World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970 with Brazil, having scored 77 goals for the national team from 92 caps.

Three days of mourning were held in Brazil in respect for the footballer.