Moroccans throng to Zidane, Ronaldo charity match for poverty
soccer player Zinedine Zidane, right, and Brazilian footballer Ronaldo arrive at
the hotel Jnane Palace in Fez, Morocco Nov. 17. Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images
Soccer stars Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo met for an all-star friendly match
against poverty in Morocco on Monday, but hundreds of youngsters were left
outside the stadium as they could not afford the seats.
Around half the
stadium in Fez was left empty as crowds of fans waited in the cool evening air
in the hope of snatching a glimpse of their heroes.
"It's a match against poverty but poor people like us are not given the right
to go in?" said Majd, a 16-year-old student from a poor neighbourhood nearby. "There
are often good games here but we never go as it costs 30 dirhams."
Tickets to the charity match were sold for between 50 and 1,000 dirhams ($6 to
$114) and organizers said many were bought by businesses who then donated them
to local development groups to distribute among the less well-off.
A similar meeting raised around 600,000 euros ($750,000) last year for projects
including Comoros Islands microfinance, theatre in Rio de Janeiro and water
systems in Sri Lanka.
The match was aimed at promoting the Millennium Development Goals such as
eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education
and reducing child mortality.
"We don't forget where we have come from and we are uniting in a good cause,"
former France international Zidane, who grew up in a poor neighbourhood of
Marseille, told reporters.
Local United Nations Development Programme representative Mourad Wahda said
Morocco was chosen for the progress it had made in human development.
The north African kingdom is struggling to create enough jobs for a growing
young population and poverty and illiteracy remain widespread in its towns and
Morocco's economic development is focused on the big coastal cities of Tangier,
Rabat and Casablanca, while Fez has struggled to rediscover past glory.
"So many country dwellers have found a new home in our city over the years but
unfortunately Fez industries are failing and many factories have closed in
recent years," said local university professor Driss Mansouri.
The government has launched a new industrial hub near the city to create more
"Welcome, friends of Zidane," read an illuminated sign in the city's newly
renovated main street.
Far away in one of the city's poorer neighbourhoods, a group of boys kicked a
ball around in a quiet side-street.
Most dreamed of being a football star like Zidane, a symbol of success in his
ancestral homeland of north Africa.
One of the boys, Abdelmajid Fedal, said his family had lived in Fez since his
grandfather abandoned a smallholding near the southern Moroccan town of
Ouarzazate for lack of money.
When not at school, Abdelmajid spends his time playing football.
"We need our local football pitch to be improved, but that's not Zidane's job,
it's our mayor's," said the 16-year-old.