By Tim Saunders on
Several hundred people packed into Gotham Hall in midtown Manhatten yesterday, March 19, for a special charity dinner to raise funds for a children’s soccer charity. And the biggest drawcard was the presentation of an award from one soccer legend to another.
David Beckham said he was humbled to present a lifetime achievement award to Brazilian soccer star Pelé at the ceremony, which was held to benefit Harlem Youth Soccer, a recreational league designed to create a safe opportunity for fair and enjoyable play for inner city youth in New York.
“For me to be here to present this to the greatest sportsmen of all time, I feel particularly honored,” said the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder. “This absolutely is a highlight moment for me.”
Pelé is widely regarded as one of the best soccer players to ever grace the field, and has been voted Player of the Century by FIFA and Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. The 67-year-old helped his native Brazil win three World Cups before moving to North America in 1975.
The $1,250-a-head charity dinner, chaired by former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr, aimed to raise $300,000 for Harlem Youth Soccer, a club that provides an opportunity for youth to have fun and fosters a spirit of good sportsmanship for players, parents, and coaches. Beckham said he became energized about Harlem’s potential when he was the centerpiece of a clinic for Harlem players last August.
“To have the children down there and to see their smiles, that’s why we have an event like this,” said Beckham. “For me to spend the afternoon I did in Harlem, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had.”
Proceeds from the evening will go towards a $1 million new field planned for the non-profit club.
“It’s critical for the kids of the inner city to really reach out,” said Bush who, along with Clinton, was unable to attend the dinner. “It will change lives.”
“Harlem is a wonderful diverse community,” added Clinton in a taped message. He went on to say that participating in sports would help children “reach the ultimate goal — to become leaders off the field.”
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