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South Africa

In South Africa, FC Barcelona and friendly rivals score new goals for children

© UNICEF video
UNICEF Representative in South Africa Macharia Kamau (foreground) receives a cheque from Barça Club Manager Albert Perrin.

By Sarah Crowe

PRETORIA, South Africa , 22 June 2007 – There was Spanish flamenco dancing, African drumming and the unique trumpeting of the South African ‘vuvuzela’ or air horn – called football’s beautiful noise here.

But this was not just another football match. Nor was the riotous assembly of colour, cultures and sport just a chance to see some heroes of the game in action.

When 50,000 adoring fans filled Pretoria’s Loftus Stadium for a friendly match between FC Barcelona and the local Mamelodi Sundowns team this week, it was a first for the country that will host Africa’s first FIFA World Cup in 2010. And there was more to come.

At half time in the match – which was seen as something of a dress rehearsal for 2010 – Patrice and Precious Motsepe of the Motsepe Family Foundation handed over a cheque for R750,000 ($107,000) to UNICEF South Africa. Mr. Motsepe is a former lawyer turned businessman whose firm, African Rainbow Minerals, is one of the world’s largest gold-mining companies. Its corporate contribution is unprecedented in UNICEF’s history in South Africa.

Missing face of AIDS

Far away from the football field, meanwhile, the real reason behind that gift – and the reason why Barça wears the UNICEF logo on their team uniforms – lies in the missing face of AIDS, a child’s face.

© UNICEF video
FC Barcelona players cheer after their 2-1 victory in Pretoria.

Even in a middle-income country like South Africa, child mortality rates have nearly doubled in the past 10 years, largely due to HIV/AIDS. In hospitals throughout the region, it is common to see babies with AIDS heaving for breath and, all too often, failing to thrive.

Southern Africa is already dealing with one of the highest levels of HIV prevalence in the world. Startling numbers of orphans and struggling grandparents are raising young children in countries such as tiny, land-locked Swaziland, whose very future is threatened by the disease.

New awareness, new fans

To give real meaning to their slogan, ‘More than a club’, FC Barcelona has committed $1.9 million to UNICEF every year for the next five years to fund HIV/AIDS programmes in Swaziland and elsewhere.

Hence the UNICEF logo on their jerseys, which seems to have added to the demand for Barça t-shirts. Even Africa’s most famous son, Nelson Mandela, was keen to get his. When he met the Spanish football team and got a personalized Barça shirt, Mr. Mandela said: “My name next to UNICEF is what I like the most.”

After a thrilling match against the Mamelodi Sundowns home team and a 2-1 victory for the visitors, Barça’s heroes left more than their t-shirts behind. They also generated new awareness among their fans – awareness that will help score goals for children affected by HIV/AIDS as South Africa, the rainbow nation, gets ready for 2010.




21 June 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on FC Barcelona’s match with the Mamelodi Sundowns team in South Africa.
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