|Germany (in white uniforms) and Costa Rica (in red) play the opening match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.|
By Monique Thormann
MUNICH, Germany, 12 June 2006 – The majority of Costa Rican fans attending the 2006 FIFA World Cup opening match on Friday may have occupied just a corner of Munich’s football stadium, but their voices resonated beyond the pitch when 'Team UNICEF' player Paolo Wanchope of Costa Rica scored two goals.
Mr. Wanchope’s first goal tied the game with Germany, and the second one brought his team closer to a possible win.
As more than 66,000 fans streamed into the stadium to watch the opening ceremony and match, a UNICEF booth located directly in front of the arena offered passersby webcam photos of themselves with Team UNICEF players.
|A fan stops into a UNICEF booth promoting the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE FOR PEACE campaign in front of the World Cup stadium in Munich, Germany.|
UNICEF, the official goodwill cause of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, was the only humanitarian agency present in the display area.
Although Costa Rica eventually lost the match to Germany by a score of 4-2, Mr. Wanchope´s sure-footed kicks showed that even in a country like Costa Rica where children and youth make up almost a third of all poor people, sport can build self-esteem. At this writing on day four of the World Cup, he is one of the three top scorers in the tournament.
World-class players sign on
Over the weekend, another Team UNICEF player highlighted his country on the world map for children, as Côte d’Ivoire star Didier Drogba scored a goal against competitor Argentina.
Since 1999, Côte d’Ivoire has suffered from political unrest and violence following a coup d’etat.
Trinidad and Tobago, whose Dwight Yorke is a Team UNICEF player, also sent ripples of surprise across the football ground by working to maintain a draw against European powerhouse Sweden.
Team UNICEF’s Edwin van der Sar of the Netherlands helped his country to victory on Sunday’s match against Serbia and Montenegro.
And yet another Team UNICEF player, David Beckham of England, assisted the winning goal for his team. Mr. Beckham is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
'A sense of national renewal'
Messrs. Beckham, Drogba, van der Sar, Wanchope and Yorke are 5 out of 15 world-class players who have signed on to Team UNICEF as part of the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE FOR PEACE campaign, an anti-violence initiative launched by UNICEF and FIFA, the international football federation and organizing body of the World Cup.
The campaign is premised on the power of football to bring together people of different backgrounds and nationalities, and to heal psychosocial scars in communities torn by conflict. In an article celebrating the spirit of the World Cup, published on Friday in the International Herald Tribune, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan touched on a similar theme.
"For any country, playing in the World Cup is a matter of profound national pride," wrote Mr. Annan. "For countries qualifying for the first time, such as my native Ghana, it is a badge of honor. For those who are doing so after years of adversity, such as Angola, it provides a sense of national renewal. And for those who are currently riven by conflict, like Ivory Coast, but whose World Cup team is a unique and powerful symbol of national unity, it inspires nothing less than the hope of national rebirth."