|Girls play football on an airstrip in Nyal, Southern Sudan. The UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE FOR PEACE campaign promotes the power of football to promote peace and tolerance in countries and communities torn by conflict.|
By Dan Thomas
NEW YORK, USA, 9 June 2006 – UNICEF and FIFA kicked off the 2006 FIFA World Cup today, calling on football fans around the world to UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE FOR PEACE.
The UNICEF-FIFA campaign promotes the power of soccer to bring peace and tolerance within communities and at the international level. FIFA, the governing body of football, and UNICEF have teamed up to use the world’s great sporting events as a platform to create self-esteem, mutual respect and fair play among children.
“FIFA selected UNICEF to be the official goodwill cause of the 2006 FIFA World Cup based on the longstanding alliance of our two organizations and our common goals of fighting for the rights of children,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “FIFA is pleased to be working with UNICEF to carry the message that sport – and particularly football – is a peace-building exercise and the core of childhood, and one that can contribute to making the world a better place”.
|Team UNICEF captain David Beckham, one of 15 world-class football players who have joined the UNICEF-FIFA campaign.|
‘Team UNICEF’ online
The 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany began in Munich today as Pelé carried the World Cup trophy onto the pitch alongside supermodel and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Claudia Schiffer. Around 150 former World Cup winners also took part in the spectacular opening ceremony watched by more than a billion people around the world on television.
A special World Cup website created by UNICEF in Arabic, English, French and Spanish invites fans to join Team UNICEF – a virtual team of UNICEF supporters around the world captained by England star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham.
Members of the team so far include soccer heroes Emmanuel Abedayor (Togo); Christoph Metzelder (Germany); Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire); Thierry Henry (France); Tim Howard (USA); Rafael Marquez (Mexico); Lionel Messi (Argentina); Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan); Ji-Sung Park (Korea); Edwin Tenorio (Ecuador); Francesco Totti (Italy); Edwin van der Sar (Holland); Paolo Wanchope (Costa Rica); and Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago).
All of these players appear in a series of 30-second and 90-second TV spots produced by MTV for UNICEF and FIFA, which are being broadcast around the world and in every stadium before each match. The spots, which can also be seen online along with a behind-the-scenes video, end by asking viewers to UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE FOR PEACE.
|Fifteen-year-old Naomi Siombua relaxes on the sideline between matches at a football tournament in Nairobi, Kenya.|
Pledge for peace
The special website also features an interactive ‘Freekick Football’ game and several multimedia profiles of boys and girls around the world for whom the game offers a refuge from violence and conflict.
One of the profiles features Naomi Siombua, 15, who grew up in the slums of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, often doing her homework by candlelight. Her favorite team is Chelsea, and she credits football with helping her avoid the violence that has ravaged many of her friends' lives.
“I have friends who have been attacked by people and been raped,” she said between games at a local tournament. “Others are in bad company – they are taking drugs. But me, when I play football, I'm busy.”
To join Naomi and the other children and professional footballers on Team UNICEF, visitors are asked to print out a souvenir certificate and sign the following pledge:
By joining Team UNICEF, I pledge to do everything in my power to ensure that all children grow up in a world at peace.
“Whether they are playing on busy streets, in crowded refugee camps or amidst the chaos of conflict, children find joy through sport,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “But sport is more than just a game – it is also one of the best ways for children to learn teamwork, tolerance and the value of fair play. UNICEF and FIFA share a common commitment to transforming young athletes into upstanding citizens.”