Spain wins. Orphaned children win.

by sandy on July 9, 2010

The beautiful game doesn’t get us all an invitation to the ball. But whoever wins or loses this Saturday in Soweto, there’s another story way behind the heroics.

The presenter on a recent interview on ABC Radio National Australia became lyrical in his praise for the football club Barcelona. It made for compelling listening, not because it was about their field tactics but because, we were told, FC Barcelona plays a different game off-field to what might be expected of a famous football team.

Their motto is ‘more than a club.’

Mr Joan Laporta, President of the Barcelona Football Club, was quoted in a UNICEF press release in September 2006 as saying that the club was aware of the global dimension of soccer and concluded that, by using soccer as a tool, they could bring hope to millions of vulnerable children in need around the world.

They are, in fact, doing a great deal more than that. In a complete turn around from the usual corporate sponsorship deals, FC Barcelona has paid UNICEF to sport their logo on their players’ shirts and agreed to donate substantially each year to support UNICEF programs for children.

These programs include preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and providing paediatric treatment and care for children made vulnerable or orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Their initial donations were used to support programs in Swaziland, a tiny principality surrounded by South Africa, estimated in 2006 to have the highest rate of adult HIV.

More recently, one of FC Barcelona’s young champions, Lionel Messi, was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador with a two year commitment to work on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children. He said: ” I am ready to do everything I can to help them [children] in my collaboration with UNICEF.”

The Spanish team due to contest the final of the soccer world cup in South Africa tomorrow is dominated by eight players from FC Barcelona, one of whom is Lionel Messi.

Anyone with a deep concern for the plight of vulnerable and orphaned children should be interested in the outcome of this match. Undoubtedly the winning team of this international contest will receive massive publicity from all over the world.

With a UNICEF ambassador for children on the team and seven others from this remarkable Barcelona club, one would hope that some of the media adulation, should they win, will fall on their extraordinary connection to suffering children.

UNICEF said at the time of the agreement that such a donation would “remind football fans everywhere of the importance of putting children first”.

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