Never think and act like you’re the best — you always have something to learn.
Those were the words of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more commonly known as Pele’, who was given an honorary Doctorate degree of humane letters from Hofstra University last Friday at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse.
“When I was young, my father was a soccer player,” Pele’, now 73, said. “I wanted to be just like him.”
The Brazilian went on to win three World Cups and become the youngest player to score an international goal (16), and he’s widely revered as “the king of soccer”. In the 1970s, Pele played three seasons for the New York Cosmos. He met fans at the game on Sunday.
“Having a legend at our university is something special,” Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz said. “We are here to celebrate the life and contributions of a truly legendary individual.”
Pele’s visit was a part of the conference entitled, “Soccer as the Beautiful Game, Football’s Artistry, Identity and Politics.” There were more than 100 speakers and journalists from 20 countries took part as well to go along with 32 panel and roundtable discussions.
Prior to Pele’s honorary degree conferral, Shawn Foster and Lea Hinnen, both Hofstra soccer players from England and Switzerland, respectively, discussed the impact Pele’ has had on them.
“When I think back on my childhood memories, they mostly involve soccer,” Foster said. “Much of the skills that I have learned came from watching [Pele’] dribble a grapefruit.”
“Ten years ago, I held a presentation about the biggest soccer legend I have ever admired,” Hinnen added. “I’m proud and honored to be speaking here in front of him.”
After Dr. Pele’ was sworn in by Rabinowitz, he spoke to the crowd of people that gave him a standing ovation beforehand.
“I could not have done anything alone,” Pele’ said. “I have a lot of people who’ve helped me get to where I am.”
Pele’ said he used to hate that people called him Pele’. It even once resulted in him getting in a fight at school, which resulted his suspension.
“When I was young, I hated the name Pele,” he said. “My father gave me the name Edson because of Thomas Edison, who created the light. I was very proud of that.”
He’s since changed his mind.
“Now I love Pele’,” he said. “The history that’s connected to it is remarkable.”