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Brazilian football legend Pele will return to the New York Cosmos in April for a championship celebration and to accept an honorary degree for humanitarian work, the team said Tuesday.
The 73-year-old icon inspired Brazil to World Cup glory in 1958, 1962 and 1970, then played for the original Cosmos from 1975 through 1977, winning the title in his final season and sparking an American surge in football interest.
The Cosmos were revived last year and won a title in the second-tier North American Soccer League, a level below Major League Soccer.
Pele will join the Cosmos in celebrating that title at a pre-game ceremony on April 13 in the team's opening match of the 2014 campaign at Hofstra University's Shuart Stadium against Atlanta in a rematch of last year's championship final.
Pele, FIFA's "Player of the 20th Century", also will be awarded an honorary degree from Hofstra for humanitarian efforts and his contributions to sport as well as serve as a special guest to the college's conference on the historical, political and economic impact of football April 10-13.
"Pele transformed and transcended the game," said Hofstra University president Stuart 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."
Pele has served as a United Nations ambassador for environmental and ecological causes and was honoured by his homeland for helping develop anti-corruption legislation.