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Hoops of success for basketball game dedicated to children

© UNICEF Belgrade/2005/Rasic-Rasa
Serbian and international basketball players together with local children at the start of the game.

By Jadranka Milanovic and Sabine Dolan

BELGRADE, 11 July 2005 – One of Europe’s most popular basketball players - and a newly appointed UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassador - Aleksandar Sasa Djordjevic joined UNICEF Serbia and Montenegro for a high-profile fundraising basketball game.

Since Belgrade will host the European Basketball Championship in September, UNICEF and Mr. Djordjevic decided to organise a basketball tournament dedicated to children. “As UNICEF National Ambassador - but first of all as a father - I dedicate this match to children,” said the basketball star. “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!”

Big game brings together international basketball stars

Thousands of people came to support the big event on 3 July. Altogether, three generations of basketball players dribbled, passed and shot the ball at the event which brought together Sasa Djordjevic and other popular basketball players. The game united some of Europe’s best players, NBA stars as well as former-Yugoslav basketball legends. The large audience included hundreds of children, who watched the game from outside the court. During breaks in the action, children were given an unforgettable chance to play ball with some of their favourite sports idols.

‘School without Violence’

UNICEF seized this unique opportunity to draw attention to the importance of sports in development and to help support ongoing programmes for children in Serbia and Montenegro.

© UNICEF Belgrade/2005/Orange agency
UNICEF Area Representative in Serbia and Montenegro Ms. Ann-Lis Svensson welcomes the audience to the game dedicated to UNICEF’s ‘School without Violence’ initiative.

In particular, the successful fundraising effort promoted UNICEF’s upcoming 'School without Violence' campaign. This all-inclusive programme aims to promote a healthy way of living and assist in creating a safer, non-violent environment for children to grow up in. UNICEF, together with government ministries and expert panels, developed the multi-faceted educational programme, tailored to students’, teachers’ and parents’ needs. The ‘School without Violence’ campaign will be the first UNICEF programme in Serbia and Montenegro to be funded exclusively by local resources. The programme is scheduled to start this September, at the beginning of the school year.

UNICEF Area Representative for Serbia And Montenegro, Ms. Ann-Lis Svensson, opens game

UNICEF Area Representative for Serbia and Montenegro, Ms. Ann-Lis Svensson, opened the tournament and welcomed the public, which included the President of Serbia. “I was very proud [of] Mr. Djordjevic’s decision to dedicate his farewell to active basketball to children and to UNICEF,” Ms. Svensson said.  “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.”

High-profile tournament captures media attention

The unique tournament received plenty of media attention. Seven thousand people attended the game, which was transmitted on Serbian National Television (RTS) and watched by 2.7 million fans. Eurovision also broadcast the match live in Brazil, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Lithuania. Highlights of the game were shown on Eurosport, as well as on Italian, Greek and Spanish TV channels.

This high-profile event was preceded by a full-scale, two-month long advertising campaign which boosted fundraising efforts and increased UNICEF's visibility in the region. Private companies and individuals contributed generously with donations and by purchasing sponsorships, tickets and various products affiliated with the match. Additional generosity was also shown during a donor dinner and special auction that preceded the match.



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