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Hofstra Awards Honorary Degree to Soccer Legend and Philanthropist Pelé

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Pelé Celebrated as Part of International Conference ‘Soccer As The Beautiful Game’

Hofstra University will award an honorary degree to Brazilian and New York Cosmos soccer legend Pelé for his humanitarian work and contributions to the sport during an international conference examining the historical, political,  and economic impact of the game, President Stuart Rabinowitz announced today. Watch the youth symposium and honorary degree ceremony with Pele live at

Pelé, named “The Player of the 20th Century” by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, and one of the “100 Most Influential People of the Century” by TIME magazine, also will be honored with a plaque in Hofstra University’s soccer stadium.  Pelé is the honorary president of the New York Cosmos, the team he led to a championship almost 40 years ago. The Cosmos are the reigning 2013 NASL champions and play at Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium.


The conference, “Soccer as the Beautiful Game: Football’s Artistry, Identity & Politics”, will bring together more than 100 scholars, journalists, players and coaches from 25 countries on April 10-13, 2014 for one ofthe largest academic symposiums ever convened about the sport in the United States.  It is being presented in collaboration with more than a dozen academic and sports institutions, including the Cosmos, the Consulates General of South Africa and Brazil in New York and the United States Soccer Federation, which last year celebrated its 100th anniversary. Hofstra History professors Dr. Brenda Elsey and Dr. Stanislao Pugliese are co-directors.

Topics will include women and soccer; the semiotics, history and governance of the game; how the sport is represented in art and literature; and its influence on religion and cultural identity. The keynote speakers are David Goldblatt, PhD, a sociologist at Bristol University, U.K., and author of the book The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football and Jennifer Doyle, PhD, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside and author of the blog The Sport Spectacle.Pelé will address a youth symposium and a celebratory banquet on Friday, April 11, and participate in the ceremonial unveiling of his stadium plaque on Sunday, April 13.

“Pelé transformed and transcended the game of soccer,” said President Rabinowitz. “While the world first came to know him for extraordinary athletic feats, his soccer career was, in many respects, simply a prelude to an extraordinary life of service as a philanthropist and advocate.  He understands the power and responsibility his soccer legacy carries, and has used it to improve the lives of others.”

A native of Brazil, Pelé began his professional career at 16 with Santos Futebol Clube in the State of São Paulo and won his first World Cup a year later, quickly racking up records that still stand today.  He is the only player to win three World Cups and remains the sport’s all-time leading scorer with 1283 career goals.

With a combination of speed, technique, and acrobatic grace, Pelé made the impossible look easy.  His name became a superlative, and his play inspired religious-like devotion in his fans. In 1967, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War reportedly agreed to a two-day ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play an exhibition game in Lagos.

Pelé came out of semi-retirement to play for the Cosmos in the mid-1970s, leading them to a North American Soccer League championship in 1977, his final season with the club.

Since his retirement from soccer, Pelé has focused on philanthropic work. He is a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment, a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO, and was awarded Brazil’s Gold Medal for outstanding service to the sport for pioneering anti-corruption legislation. He was bestowed with an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.  A Pelé Museum is slated to open later this year in Santos, to coincide with Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

About the author

Karla Schuster


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  • Great that there is attention to the public diplomacy aspects of sports and foreign policy. For those on the West Coast, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy is hosting a free event on Wednesday, April 16 at 12pm-1:30pm (Annenberg School for Communication, Room 207) on What if the U.S. and Mexico Co-Hosted the 2026 World Cup? You can find more information here ( about the program and speakers, which include Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, Michael Govan, and Leon Krauze.

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