LIMA, 22 June 2004 - A few days before the start of the America Cup/Peru 2004, the organizers, the official sponsors and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced jointly that Peruvian children would be among the big winners of this sporting event. With a campaign entitled ¡Con los niños sí se gana! (You Win with Children!), UNICEF and the South American Soccer Federation (CONMEBOL) have agreed to dedicate the Copa América 2004 to the children of the host country, Peru, though a series of activities designed to guarantee good soccer by promoting child development.
A number of events associated with the campaign are planned for the 18 competition dates (26 games in six cities of Peru). Mr. Arturo Woodman, President of the America Cup/Peru 2004 Organizing Committee announced that arrangements have been made with the President of Peru, Mr. Alejandro Toledo, to ensure that 12,000 children can attend the games. "It will be a wonderful opportunity to see the games live, in the stadium, for thousands of Peruvian children who otherwise would not have a chance to watch the Copa America," said Mr. Woodman.
Peruvian children will also be reserved a special place at the inaugural ceremony of the 2004 America Cup. According to Mr. Andrés Franco, UNICEF Representative in Peru, “It will be the start of a wave of events that includes a social communication strategy with fans, in and outside the stadiums, to make Peruvian children the center of soccer development. These activities will enable us to promote children's rights. After all, as any mother in the world can tell you, the passion for soccer begins with children, when they first begin kicking in the womb."
Being Great Means Starting Young
UNICEF exhibited a novel design for a baby bib with a diagonal red strip that resembles the shirt worn by Peru's national soccer team. Para ser grandes empecemos desde pequeños (“Being Great Means Starting Young") is one of the slogans on the bib and was praised highly by the official America Cup sponsors. "UNICEF is sending us a clear message: if we want to be good at soccer, we have to start with children", said Mr. Woodman.
The official sponsors of the 2004 America Cup enthusiastically embraced the proposal put forth by the South American Soccer Federation (CONMEBOL) and UNICEF. Pepsi, LG Electronics, Master Card and PETROBRAS have organized activities to convey the message of You Win with Children! to the thousands of fans who see and hear their advertising. These activities will include events with journalists at the stadiums and at several of the Copa America promotional events planned by the sponsors.
“They all agreed to do their best to circulate and promote our message on the importance of early childhood (from gestation to age three) and the need to invest in this stage of life so the country can achieve the very best in soccer and in any other human activity." This was how Mr. Franco described his talks with the 2004 America Cup sponsors.
Two UNICEF goodwill ambassadors have joined the UNICEF campaign in connection with the Copa America 2004. Former star of European soccer George Weah of Liberia, and the well-known actor Roger Moore, who played Agent 007, have taped messages for Latin America. “The game begins with the first kick; the starting whistle sounds in the mother's womb” said these UNICEF ambassadors.
Activities to Put Children at the Heart of the America Cup 2004
UNICEF has planned a series of activities such as preparatory workshops on early growth and development for Peruvian sports journalists and articles with commentaries and analyses of the games to be published in the country's leading newspapers. There will be a Copa America Mini-Cup - a tournament with youngsters from Lima's disadvantaged neighborhoods - so they too can join the You Win with Children! Campaign, special exhibits for Peruvian families with Elmo and Ernie from Sesame Street, and messages on screen at the stadiums and in audio.
Just before the final game of the Copa América, a workshop with Ms. Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director UNICEF, will be held at the highest level to encourage investment in early childhood as the only way to ensure better soccer and, therefore, better citizens. A player who is able to stay the course in a 90-minute game is one who is born to a healthy mother, nurtured in a loving family, and flourishes in a country with clear priorities and a long-term vision.
When referring to the announcements in Lima, Ms. Bellamy said: "The Cup shows us the opportunities soccer provides to fulfil the objectives of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Millennium Goals for children." She announced her plans to attend the final game in Lima on July 25, where she hopes to further UNICEF's alliances with FIFA and CONMEBOL. The President of FIFA, Mr. Joseph Blatter, and the President of CONMEBOL, Mr. Nicolás Leoz, are also expected to attend the final game.
The Situation of Peruvian Children is Not Encouraging
The Copa America 2004 is a chance to address the unpromising plight of Peruvian children under age three, especially in rural areas of the Andes and the Amazon. Chronic malnutrition is a serious problem in these regions and, in some cases, is above 50%. This is a cause for concern on the part of Peruvian authorities, because the brain and other vital organs are formed during gestation and in the first three years of a child's life.
This is a wonderful opportunity to call attention to the urgency of changing the pace of Peruvian soccer and the course of the entire country, starting with children. In Peru alone, statistics show that 400 thousand children are chronically malnourished and nearly 900 thousand suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. This is a terrible fact of life that everyone is obliged to change.
UNICEF has been in Peru - the host country of the Copa America 2004 - for 54 years. Today, its cooperation program with the Peruvian government enables the organization to serve hundreds of rural communities in the Andes and the Amazon, helping to ensure that children in extreme poverty have an adequate diet and the health, protection and affection they need to fulfill their physical and intellectual potential.
This is the first time in Latin America that a sporting event of this magnitude has been dedicated to the children of the host country. The UNICEF - CONMEBOL alliance is a regional expression of the UNICEF-FIFA global alliance, through which a variety of activities were organized during the World Cup/Japan-Korea 2000, as will be the case for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. CONMEBOL and UNICEF signed a joint declaration on May 7 in Asuncion, Paraguay.
The America Cup is the oldest and most important tournament in Latin America. It is organized every two years in a different country of the region. This year, twelve countries will be competing this important prize: Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Chile. Together with Euro Cup 2004, it is the most important regional soccer event in the world. Some 30,000 tourists and 2,000 journalists from around the globe are expected to descend on Peru in July.