Aleksandar Sasa Djordjevic
On 3 July 2005, UNICEF Serbia and its National Ambassador, Mr. Aleksandar Sasa Djordjevic, one of the best European basketball players held a big and extremely successful fundraising basketball match in Belgrade.
As the UN have declared 2005 the International Year for Sport and Physical Education and Belgrade will host the European Basketball Championship in September, UNICEF and Sasa Djordjevic decided to organise a basketball match dedicated to children. And the event to remember happened! Cheered by thousands of delighted people, three generations of basketball players: the former, everlasting and future idols appeared on the court. It was an encounter of Sasa’s basketball role models, team-mates and opponents in his unforgettable quests for national, European, world and Olympic gold medals, as well as those who are about to follow his track.
“As UNICEF National Ambassador, but first of all as a father, I dedicate this match to children. I do not like to think of this as of my farewell match. Most importantly, it is my message to children and all those who care for them: ‘In sport, as in life, choose fair play. Without violence!” said Sasa Djordjevic.
UNICEF seized this unique opportunity to draw the attention to the importance of sports in development and to help support our programmes for and with children in Serbia - the “School without Violence” project in particular. The work on this event has also helped us to strengthen the existing and build new strategic partnerships for children.
The match was truly spectacular. It gathered some of the best European players (such as Jasikievicius, Meneghin…), NBA stars (Divac, Stojakovic, Radmanovic, Kukoc…), Serbian and former Yugoslav basketball legends. UNICEF Area Representative, Ms. Ann-Lis Svensson, accompanied by a child, opened the match and welcomed the public, including the President of Serbia. The players came to the UNICEF-branded court in UNICEF branded kit, also accompanied by children who were throwing UNICEF-branded basket balls.
There was no doubt that friendships made on court know no boundaries. Hundreds of children watched the match sitting behind the out line of the court. During the breaks they were exchanging a ball or two with their sport idols. Sasa and the guest players played with them, showed them some tricks and helped them score points. At the end, thousands of balloons with UNICEF logo fell on the court and after the fireworks and confetti, Sasa Djordjevic officially changed his role of a play–maker in the national team to the role of the UNICEF National Ambassador.
The match was seen by some 7,000 viewers in the sport arena who bought the UNICEF-branded tickets. Another 2.7 million viewers in Serbia and Montenegro watched the game on the National Television (RTS) that run the SMS donation appeals. The match was also broadcast live in Montenegro, Brazil, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Lithuania (via Eurovision). The highlights were shown on the Euro Sport, as well as on the Italian, Greek and Spanish TV channels.
“I was very proud by Sasa’s decision to dedicate his farewell to active basketball to children and to UNICEF. We all have worked hard to have this spectacular event happen. Thanks to Sasa’s work and professional achievements, but also to his personal integrity, he has deservedly become a role model for thousands of children and adolescents. He can teach them endurance, tolerance, humanity and family values,” said UNICEF Area Representative Ann-Lis Svensson.
The fundraising part and the promotion of the “School without Violence” initiative have also exceeded our expectations. Companies, businessmen and individuals have generously contributed by the purchase of sponsorships, tickets, products made for the match and with direct donations. There was much generosity also at the donor dinner and an auction that preceded the match. The “School without Violence” campaign and project will be the first UNICEF programme in Serbia to be funded exclusively from the local resources. The implementation of the programme will start in September with the beginning of the new school year.
This big event, which was preceded by a two-month full-scale advertisement background and which has had huge media coverage, has significantly contributed to the increase of UNICEF's visibility and the establishment of partnerships not only with the private sector but also with parents and people who are giving their full support to the initiative.
The “School without Violence” programme with Aleksandar Sasa Djordjevic as its promoter has already received and will continue to receive wide public attention and support in Serbia.