An international roster of football stars meet SL Benfica of Portugal in
Lisbon next month in a United Nations ‘Match Against Poverty’, with soccer
greats Ronaldo of Brazil and Zinédine Zidane of France playing on the same
side for the first time in a symbolic demonstration of the urgency of
working together to fight the global scourge.
The shots that the two stars, both UN Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill
Ambassadors, take this time aim not so much at landing the ball in the net
as on scoring a different kind of goal, the eight UN Millennium Goals (MDGs)
that seek to slash a host of social ills, ranging from extreme poverty and
hunger to maternal and infant mortality to lack of access to education and
health care, all by 2015.
'No one is a spectator in the struggle to end poverty,' Ronaldo, who now
plays for Corinthians in Brazil, said of the 25 January match, the 7th in an
annual series, half the proceeds of which will benefit UNDP anti-poverty
programmes. 'It is only through working together, on the same team, that we
will achieve the Millennium Development Goals.'
Zidane, who retired from active football in 2006 but continues to play in
the annual Match Against Poverty, echoed Ronaldo. 'We must score the eight
goals through commitment, willpower and teamwork,' he said.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said this year’s match takes on special
importance as it comes five years before the MDG deadline. 'The MDGs are
enormously important targets, the achievement of which would mean a huge
improvement to peoples’ lives,' she said.
'Achieving them will require strong partnerships, enough dedicated resources,
unwavering political leadership, and a long-term strategy to ensure that how
we develop and grow is sustainable in every sense.'
SL Benfica chairman expressed his club’s pleasure at being associated with
UNDP. 'Football is a great way to get people together for a good cause,' he
The other half the proceeds will go to the SL Benfica Foundation, targeted
at social development projects in Portuguese-speaking African countries.
Proceeds from the previous six matches have benefited anti-poverty
initiatives ranging from support to female entrepreneurs to the construction
of sports centres for street children and the disadvantaged throughout Asia,
Africa and Latin America.
The game is the latest in a long list of cooperation between the UN and
international sports that has seen the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) team up
with the European Swimming League in 'a race against time' to prevent deaths
from unclean water; the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) partner the WTA Tour of women’s tennis to promote gender equality;
and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launch 'Cricket Against Hunger' with
England and Wales to draw attention to the plight of 400 million chronically
hungry children around the world.