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Football fights AIDS and drug abuse

© UNICEF/KIRA-4/Dubanaev
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter greets the girls’ football team at the opening of National Football Centre in Kyrgyzstan.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan/NEW YORK, 20 September 2004 – Under the slogan “Kyrgyz Young Football Players Against Drugs and HIV/AIDS,” the final of the Kyrgyz President’s Cup 2004 – the biggest young people’s football tournament in Kyrgyzstan – brought to a conclusion a successful campaign to raise public awareness of key issues for young people. A key goal of the campaign was to stimulate action to help create a healthy environment for young people, allowing them to develop to their full potential.

Among the issues publicized by the campaign were HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and violence. The community-focused campaign was supported by UNICEF and the Kyrgyz Football Federation, who kicked off their collaboration in January this year.

At the final game of the championship, UNICEF Assistant Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic Richard Young stressed that young people are the source of great hope for the future development of football in the country and the key players in resolving the problems that affect them, such as drug abuse, HIV/AIDS infection and violence.

Mr. Young said about the campaign: “We believe in the power of football. We believe that sport helps children – both boys and girls - not only to grow physically strong; it also helps to build the confidence and self-esteem that will serve them throughout their lives.”
On 16 September, Mr. Joseph S. Blatter, President of football’s international governing body FIFA, visited the newly-built stadium, which was packed with government officials, Kyrgyz footballers, and boys and girls wearing brightly coloured football gear. His visit excited young footballers in this small capital of less than a million inhabitants. 

During the leadup to the final game, HIV/AIDS awareness training was provided for young people involved in the tournament. Volunteers of the National Red Crescent Society and the non-governmental organization ‘Alliance for Reproductive Health used peer-to-peer methods to discuss the risks of unhealthy behaviour, protection, where to get information and how to communicate sensitive issues to peers.



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