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Ex-Saints footballer Pelé fostered 70 children since retiring

A former professional footballer has described the "amazing" experience of fostering 70 children over the past decade.

Former Southampton FC player Pedro "Pelé" Monteiro and his wife Jo started fostering following his retirement.

The pair are now fronting a campaign to find more foster carers.

Pelé described fostering as "that thing that you've got inside of you that you want to help".

The ex-professional, who also spent time at West Bromwich Albion, AFC Totton and Havant and Waterlooville FC during his career, said: "We make them all feel part of the family, it's not like this is us and this is you, it's everybody the same.

"That's how we should be."

He added that when a foster child walks into their house "to make them smile is amazing".

Jo said: "We know background of why they're with us, but that doesn't change how we welcome them."

The couple have two birth children, Rhaianna, 15, and Taelan, 12, and recently officially welcomed 15-year-old Theo into their family - having fostered him for the past 18 months.

Theo said when he first met the family he "felt really welcomed", and that "it always makes me want to try my best so that I can keep making them proud".

He added: "It's great to have some place where I can come home, feel welcome and loved and to have a family."

"It's really life changing."

Taelan said: "It's just amazing to be around new people every single day."The 12-year-old said that "all of them are my friends", and that if his foster siblings were happy "then I'm happy".

Jo added that watching foster children become the best versions of themselves was "the biggest reward".

The season-long initiative between the Saints and Southampton City Council's fostering service focuses on recruiting foster carers from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

More than 7,000 new foster families are believed to be needed across the UK

By Ethan Gudge

BBC News

Apply to become a foster carer today! You could change a childs life!

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