|In Beijing, China, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel 'Leo' Messi is accompanied by children during a friendly match between Football Club Barcelona and the Beijing Guo'an team.|
BEIJING, China, 11 August 2010 – While in Beijing recently, players from Football Club Barcelona took time out of their training schedule to meet a group of children from earthquake-affected Mianzhu county in China’s Sichuan Province.
The children, aged 8 through 12, represented several communities that are receiving reconstruction support from UNICEF. They travelled to Beijing to meet the famous footballers, who were here as part of their 2010 Asian Tour.
The players presented the children with gifts of autographed jerseys and footballs, and in return, the children presented head coach Josep Guardiola with drawings reflecting their hopes for the future.
|Footballers demonstrate shooting techniques to earthquake-affected children in Beijing.|
Across the earthquake zone, UNICEF has played an important role in supporting children’s psycho-social recovery. Superstar football player and newly appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel ‘Leo’ Messi also met the children in Beijing. Mr. Messi recently demonstrated his commitment to children by visiting Haiti to support UNICEF’s earthquake reconstruction programme there.
FC Barcelona is an international sports partner supporting UNICEF’s work with vulnerable children in various countries. The club has made a unique multi-year commitment to UNICEF, including support for public awareness campaigns and philanthropic funding that is expected to pass the $9 million mark in 2011.
Value of sports
“UNICEF’s partnership with FC Barcelona shines a very bright spotlight on the role sport and recreation play in fostering children’s development, growth and even their protection,” said UNICEF’s Chief of Communication in Beijing, Dale Rutstein. “Children do better in school when they take part in sports. Sport can also help traumatized and vulnerable children to regain confidence and social skills.”
|Children present drawings reflecting their hopes and aspirations to Josep Guardiola, head coach of FC Barcelona, at Worker’s Stadium in Beijing, China.|
The children who met with the FC Barcelona players are from a school that is part of UNICEF’s early childhood development programme, supported by a major partnership between UNICEF and the Audi auto company. The UNICEF China earthquake relief programme is in its third year, supporting government reconstruction efforts in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi following a massive quake that devastated the provinces in 2008.
On 8 August, the children from Sichuan accompanied FC Barcelona and Guo’an Beijing football players onto the field for a friendly match in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium. UNICEF Representative to China Dr. Yin Yin Nwe also attended the kick-off ceremony.