By Gabriel Araujo
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian soccer legend Pele on Wednesday urged the country's authorities to intensify their search for a British journalist and an indigenous expert that went missing in the Amazon jungle on Sunday.
Pele said on Instagram that he was moved by the disappearance of Dom Phillips, a freelancer who has written for the Guardian, the Washington Post and other publications, and Bruno Pereira, a former senior official with federal indigenous agency Funai.
"The fight for the preservation of the Amazon Forest and the protection of indigenous groups belongs to all of us. ... Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira dedicate their lives to this cause," Pele said.
Phillips and Pereira had been on a reporting trip in the Javari Valley, a remote jungle area that is home to the world's largest number of uncontacted indigenous people, as well as cocaine-smuggling gangs, and illegal hunters and fishermen.
Brazil's government dispatched navy, army and federal police personnel to join a search for the pair in a vast indigenous reserve with an area larger than Austria, but local groups criticized the security forces for taking too long to deploy search teams.
"I join the many voices that make the appeal to intensify the search and to find them as soon as possible," Pele said while sharing a video of Phillips' wife, Alessandra Sampaio, making an emotional plea for authorities to intensify their search efforts.
Widely considered to be the best of all time, the 81-year-old former Brazil, Santos and New York Cosmos forward has reduced his public appearances recently as he receives treatment for a colon tumor, but remains active on social media.
Other sports personalities such as Everton and Brazil striker Richarlison and former Brazil international Walter Casagrande Junior have also urged authorities to step up their efforts to find Phillips and Pereira.
(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Bill Berkrot)