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Football from the field

UNICEF Image: Girls play football at Savelugu Junior Secondary School in the town of Savelugu, Ghana, capital of Savelugu-Nanton District in Northern Region.
Girls play football at Savelugu Junior Secondary School in the town of Savelugu, Ghana, capital of Savelugu-Nanton District in Northern Region.

The power of play is a universal one, and children around the world respond to its call.

Globally, UNICEF offices around the work use sport, play and recreation to bring children together to learn all sport has to teach. In celebration of the World Cup, UNICEF would like to highlight a worldwide favorite: football! Harnessing the power of its universal appeal – which transcends cultural barriers - can translate into real change for children’s lives.

Below is a list of some of the many programmes UNICEF sponsors to engage football-related sport and sport celebrities.

Football brings joy to Afghan refugee children in the mine-ridden border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

UNICEF Ambassador, Madjid Bougherra visited the city of Oran to encourage young people to express their views and engage more actively in community organizations.

Football star and UNICEF Ambassador from Norway, Ole Gunnar Solskjær visited schools in Angola to see how education has transformed the embattled nation.

Boca Junior’s Alliance takes stock of over a decade of work on children’s rights.

Football players and fans came together for a series of games to raise funds for UNICEF Australia.  Video

Football has been used to encourage young people to participate in environmental conservation activities in southern Belize. Video

Bosnia and Herzogovina
Thousands of children from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered in Sarajevo to bid farewell to the Bosnian National Football Team, “The Dragons,” ahead of their departure to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil.  Video: UNICEF National Ambassador Edin Dzeko together with Bosnian children.

On the launch of ‘Educate with Football – My team is top notch’ in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Alberto Parreira, technical director of Brazil’s national football team was appointed Brazil Champion for the Right to Safe and Inclusive Sports.

Football Star Dimitar Berbatov’s work as national ambassador has been focused on enhancing the rights of children with special attention to the link between poverty and children with disabilities.

The Laman Az football project provided a positive healing experience for many adolescents physically and psychologically wounded by landmines. Video

An initiative called “Golombiao” is a programme that uses modified football rules to prevent recruitment by armed groups among children and adolescents and provide tools for conflict resolution, gender equity and peaceful coexistence. Video

Costa Rica
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Leo Messi met children from vulnerable communities in Costa Rica to discuss how sport can reduce violence and help support quality educational programmes. Video

Cote D’Ivoire
Cote D’Ivoire partnered with the Scouts and National Football federation to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and violence and to promote birth registration for all children.

Cuba developed programmes focused on improving health and mortality rates among children 6-11 years who face the greatest socio-economic disadvantages. Football and swimming have enabled a reduction in child mortality due to drowning.

Soccer Aid 2014 is bringing together football legends, supporters and celebrities for a football match to help save and change children's lives around the world. Video 

Ecuadorian football star Antonio Valencia joined the Vamos Jogar initiative to encourage local authorities to provide safe and inclusive sports across for all children and adolescents across all municipalities.

The Ministries of Health and Youth and Sport in Fiji have partnered with the OFC and Fiji Football Association to promote the “Kick Dengue Out of Fiji” campaign to help tackle dengue together and raise awareness of the disease throughout Oceania.

Ghana, a nation with frequently occurring water-borne diseases has created a program called “Football for Water” to spread the message of the importance of sanitation and hygiene for children in schools. Video 

Olympiacos FC and UNICEF launched a partnership to immunize children in countries that urgently need support. The aim of the partnership is to raise funds and awareness, for UNICEF’s ‘100% Campaign’ to immunize children not currently reached by vaccination programmes. Video 

The Haitian “Team Zaryen” Amputee Soccer Team created after the 2010 earthquake, has helped amputees build their self-esteem through sport and raise awareness about the importance of inclusion. The team’s mandate has expanded since then to providing assistive devices to children in clinics and orphanages.

Héctor Zelaya, a former football star who earned the nickname “Pecho de Águila” (Hawk Chest), is the founder of the successful children’s league, Fútbol Para la Vida league, a programme that uses sport to improve young lives.

Residents of the earthquake-affected city of Bam were given a rare treat when a group of celebrities from sport, TV and film flew down to the desert town to play in a football match. Story: Abbas Jazzi, 16, lives for football in a tough neighbourhood in Iran

Invited by the Palestinian football Federation and the French General Consulate in Jerusalem, Lilian Thuram, renowned French national team soccer player, visited the occupied Palestinian territory for the first time since he was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in France.

Minami-Sanriku Cho was almost entirely washed away by the tsunami of March 2011. The town lost nearly half of its 18,000 residents, some of whom are still missing. In this town, Football star Makoto Hasebe appealed for support for the world's children. Video 

robbie Williams traveled to Mexico City with UNICEF to make a short film about some of the city’s most vulnerable children.  Video

Through the Namibian Football Association’s women’s desk, dedicated under-13 and under-15 girls football leagues have been established across the nation. Through the leagues, girls are able to play organized football on a weekly basis and partake in  healthy lifestyles activities and health information sessions. Video

Netherlands ‘Football for Water’ initiative contributes towards reaching universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Kanu Nwankwo, famous Nigerian football star and Captain of the National team, is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He promoted ‘Football for Hope’ in Lagos.

‘Movimiento Nueva Generación World Cup’: Begun in 2006, with the support of UNICEF, as a small football tournament in Panama City and has grown into a tournament in which more than 7,000 children participate around the country.

Around Peru, through the ‘Football of Values Festivals’, adolescents developed life skills such as social and communication skills, teamwork and dealing with adults, as well as strengthened values (tolerance, respect to others and to the norms, and fair play).  Video

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham meets young survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in a visit to Philippines.   Video

Sierra Leone
View a slide show of football legend and Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham in Sierra Leone.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of football team Manchester United helped launch UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS in Geneva.

Footballers from Gaziantepspor and Besiktas Football Clubs take to the field to play Syrian children staying in refugee camps. Video

NICEF hosted a football tournament in Kyiv to draw public attention to issues of children's rights and protection in Ukraine and to promote football as one of the ways to help vulnerable children. Video



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