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Press release

Thanks to FIFA, football is more than just a game

UNICEF Commends Football Body on its 100th birthday for using Soccer to Change Children’s Lives

PARIS/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 20 May 2004 -  On the 100th anniversary of FIFA, football’s international governing body, UNICEF congratulated the organization for harnessing the power of football to improve the lives of the world’s neediest children.

“FIFA has really stepped up for children by recognizing that football is more than just a game,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said Thursday. “In a world where far too many children suffer from poverty, armed conflict and AIDS, football can help rescue the part of childhood that includes the right to play.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all children should enjoy the basic right to play.

“Football is one of the few things that children adore that is actually good for them,” Bellamy said. “It teaches them peaceful ways to resolve conflicts, brings some normalcy to the lives of children affected by violence and natural disasters, and encourages physical and emotional development.”

In many countries, UNICEF uses football to educate children about HIV/AIDS, such as in “Futbol para la Vida,” an AIDS education program in Honduras. In Colombia, UNICEF supports “Futbol para la Paz”, a country-wide program using football to bridge communities. And during the armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Georgia, Sudan and the Balkans, football helped children cope with the stress and insecurity of conflict.

In their Centennial Celebration matches in Paris today, FIFA will celebrate their relationship with UNICEF and their support for children. During the women's match between the World Championship team from Germany and a Women's World Stars team, with players from around the globe, all players will sport the FIFA and UNICEF logos on their sleeves.

In 2004, UNICEF and FIFA will focus on bringing attention to the security of children affected by conflict. Football will be used to help build a protective environment for children – bringing communities together, rehabilitating former soldiers, providing safe places for children to vent frustrations and stress through play.

The alliance between UNICEF and FIFA began in 1999, and was formalized in 2001. The following year FIFA dedicated the World Cup to UNICEF’s Say Yes for Children campaign. Nearly 95 million children and adults from around the world pledged their support during the campaign for the things all children need and should have.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2003 was dedicated to UNICEF’s education campaign, “Go, Girls! Education for Every Child.” In addition to promoting the campaign throughout the tournament, FIFA donated more than 600 “sport-in-a-box” kits, which contain everything needed for a game of football, to support UNICEF programmes around the world in an effort to help get as many girls as boys into school.  In Guinea and Djibouti, for example, UNICEF is using the sports kits as a way of improving girls’ attendance in schools, empowering girls and changing attitudes towards girls.  Continuing with this support, the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup 2004 also will be dedicated to UNICEF’s girls’ education campaign.

UNICEF and FIFA have been expanding their alliance beyond sports events to partnerships and programs at the national level that address the health, education and protection of children and adolescents. Partnerships have developed between UNICEF country offices and FIFA national associations in over 75NH countries.

“All over the globe, children and teenagers will play football wherever they can – in fields, alleys, parking lots and refugee camps,” Bellamy said. “We must do everything we can to take advantage of this natural affinity for football to help children build the confidence and self-esteem that will serve them throughout their lives.”

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For more information, please contact:
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva 41 22 909 5712
Kate Donovan, UNICEF NY, tel:  212 326 7452,
Oliver Phillips, UNICEF NY, tel: 212 326 7583,
In Paris, Marc Vergara, Tel:  0041 79 204 22 83

For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.





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