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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors

© Radu Tuta

Gheorghe Hagi named UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassador for Romania

There was standing room only when more than 50 journalists, photographers and other media representatives crammed into the conference room at UNICEF Romania’s headquarters in Bucharest to record the announcement that Gheorghe Hagi had accepted an invitation to become a National Goodwill Ambassador.

A household name in Romania and throughout the footballing world, Gheorghe Hagi perfectly meets the criteria we look for in a Goodwill Ambassador. He is the idol of countless thousands of children, and has earned the respect of millions of Romanians. By any standards his career figures are exceptional. As an automatic selection in Romania’s national side between 1983 and 2000, he was voted Romania’s player of the year six times and named Romania’s best footballer of the 20th century; he captained the national team more often than anyone, played 135 internationals and still holds the record for the most goals scored for his country. Who could ever forget the curling long-range shot from 40 metres that beat Colombia’s goalkeeper and helped Romania’s passage to the quarter-finals of the 1996 World Cup? 

Yet it is not on his reputation as a goal scorer that his legacy rests; rather, it is as a playmaker, selflessly and creatively constructing opportunities for team mates, and his  outstanding leadership during a ‘golden period’ that saw Romanian football reach levels of performance and popular awareness that were bettered neither before or since. His place in the collective consciousness of Romanians is fixed, and his prominence as a national figure today is, if anything, enhanced, thrown into relief by superb career statistics and an unaffected, sober approach to life. He is probably the most popular Romanian, and has been for some time. He is also extremely popular throughout Turkey, where he played and coached for a number of years.


© Picture: UNICEF Romania.
Gheorghe Hagi meets children at the Philip Day Care Center in Ferentari.

It is these qualities that attracted Gheorghe Hagi to UNICEF, and it is these qualities that UNICEF Romania’s Edmond McLoughney alluded to at the press conference.

Hagi had previously been involved in projects that helped children in difficulty. Accepting the appointment, he said that his “We are confident that this appointment will heighten awareness and galvanise attitudes amongst people to the specific problems faced by children in Romania,” he said. “I strongly believe that Gheorghe Hagi will be a great supporter and ambassador for UNICEF.”
achievements in football were gained by having people believe in him, and that it was now his turn to help UNICEF give children hope. “We must understand that by helping today’s children, we help tomorrow’s adults,” he said, and added, “a child’s smile is more important than all the riches in the world.”

We look forward very much to working with Gheorghe Hagi, who joins Andreea Marin Bănică, a National Goodwill Ambassador since December 2006, in doing whatever they can to defend, protect and promote the rights and interests of Romanian children. They are two of more than 260 UNICEF ambassadors whose celebrity status helps draw attention to children in need and raise awareness amongst people in their industry, field or country.

 

 
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