The New York Cosmos announced that the club’s Honorary President Pelé will join the team for its first game of the 2014 NASL season on April 13 at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium. The Cosmos host the Atlanta Silverbacks in a rematch of last year’s title game. The Cosmos will hold a special pre-game trophy ceremony with Pelé, the current squad and the NASL Soccer Bowl trophy.
In addition to attending the opening match, Pelé will be awarded an honorary degree by Hofstra University for his humanitarian work and contributions to the sport. Pelé, who played three NASL seasons (1975-77) with the Cosmos and led them to the Soccer Bowl title in his final campaign in 1977, will be a guest as Hofstra hosts an international conference examining the historical, political and economic impact of soccer. The announcement was made by University President Stuart Rabinowitz on Monday.
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 from April 10-13, 2014 for one of the 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.
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. He 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,” Rabinowitz said. “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.
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.