Following in Pelé’s footsteps, Vinícius Junior appointed UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador — Global Issues

During her visit, Director-General of the UN education, science and culture body, UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay presented the 23-year-old winger with a letter of appointment, acknowledging his exceptional achievements on the pitch and his unwavering commitment to promoting equal educational opportunities in Brazil.

I want to be acknowledged not only as a great player, but also as a citizen who strives to make a difference – Vinicius Junior

Ms. Azoulay emphasized that the Brazil national team regular was “not only an outstanding football player, but also a passionate advocate for equal access to education”.

This marks the second time in UNESCO’s history that a Brazilian footballer has been named Goodwill Ambassador, following in the footsteps of the legendary Pelé.

Role model ‘for an entire generation’

“He stands as a role model for an entire generation, and UNESCO is privileged to have him join our esteemed group of Goodwill Ambassadors“, she said.

Vinícius Junior expressed his gratitude for the honor and recognized it as both an achievement and a lifelong duty.

I want to be acknowledged not only as a great player, but also as a citizen who strives to make a difference. My commitment to education started at 19, and with UNESCO’s support, we aim to have a positive impact worldwide through my institute,” he declared.

In 2021, he established the Instituto Viní Jr., dedicated to helping underprivileged Brazilian children and teenagers reintegrate back into the education system.

The institute utilizes sports values to inspire students from diverse backgrounds to pursue education.

Anti-racism crusader

Vinícius Junior’s dedication to social justice is evident in his advocacy against discrimination and prejudice, particularly in instances of racism faced by him and others on and off the pitch.

His collaboration with FIFA and Brazil in the Racism, don’t pretend you don’t see it campaign earned him the prestigious 2023 Socrates Award, presented at last year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony – football’s leading awards’ night.

In alignment with UNESCO’s goal of promoting education for all, Vinícius Junior will play a crucial role in speaking at international conferences, engaging with Member States and the public and supporting UNESCO’s global educational initiatives.

UNESCO reports that approximately 250 million children and teenagers currently lack access to education, with an increase of 6 million since 2021.

Additionally, seven out of 10 children cannot read and comprehend a basic text by the age of 10, highlighting the urgent need for action to confront social inequality, which is fuelling school drop-out rates and learning deficiencies.

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