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Hofstra will give soccer icon Pele honorary degree

Brazilian soccer legend Pele arrives for the final

Brazilian soccer legend Pele arrives for the final draw of the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia state, Brazil, on December 6, 2013. Credit: Getty Images

Whenever Pele is around, a big crowd is sure to follow.

So, it should not be surprising that Pele is the centerpiece of an international soccer conference at Hofstra, a symposium that began Thursday and runs through Saturday.

Pele, who started a U.S. soccer boom during his three-year tenure with the Cosmos in the seventies, will receive an honorary doctorate during a special ceremony at the school Friday at 3 p.m. Hofstra also will dedicate a plaque to the man known as the Black Pearl and to many fans as the greatest soccer player, at Shuart Stadium prior to the Cosmos' season opener against the Atlanta Silverbacks at 5 p.m. Sunday.

"I don't think we can overstate his influence on the game," said Brenda Elsey, the conference co-director. "Sixty years he has been at the center of this sport. The dissemination of football has a lot to do with him and his generation."

More than 1,000 participants are expected to attend the "Soccer as the Beautiful Game, Football's Artistry, Identity and Politics." The conference includes more than 100 scholarly speakers and journalists from some 20 countries.

The various discussions range from culture, politics, philosophy and sociological aspects of the sport in 32 panel and roundtable discussions.

In his keynote address, Dr. David Goldblatt, a noted author and journalist who has taught the sociology of sport at the University of Bristol in England, registered his concerns about the future of soccer, which included transparency and reform at national and international governing bodies.

He also feared soccer was in danger of losing its soul at the World Cup in Brazil.

"Increasingly, football is being shaped by the demands of television and the needs of the television audience," he said. "Not only is the vuvuzela banned, musical instrumentals have been banned. Just think about that for a minute. We are talking about the football culture that is most associated with music -- samba football. There is an intimate connection between music, style of play and the whole feel of Brazilian football.

"If the Confederations Cup is any indication, we're going to begin the games with AC/DC's Hells Bells."

In another keynote address last night, Jennifer Doyle of the University of California, Riverside, tackled the provocative and controversial subject of abolishing the World Cup .

The conference is open to the public, which can register for in the multi-purpose room in the Mack Student Center at Hofstra.

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