GENEVA (AP) _ Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo became a U.N. goodwill ambassador Tuesday and promised to use his popularity to spotlight the plight of the poor.

``I accepted this important appointment in my life because I have seen poverty firsthand,'' the 23-year-old athlete said at the U.N. European headquarters. ``I know what it is to experience hardship, and unfortunately hardship is the common lot in many countries.''

Ronaldo, twice voted world player of the year, comes from a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and began his soccer career playing barefoot in the streets.

Other U.N. goodwill ambassadors include actor Danny Glover and South African novelist Nadine Gordimer.