21,000 Swiss show solidarity with the Philippines
© FIFA.com

The United Nations Development Programme again mobilized its team of top football players to compete against a European football club to raise both funds for and awareness of the extreme poverty challenges facing the world.

FIFA Director of Communication and Public Affairs Walter De Gregorio attended the game on behalf of FIFA President Blatter to hand out pennants to the two teams, to the hosts Young Boys and to the representative of the United Nations. FIFA Vice-President Michel Platini was also present.

This year, two thirds of the match proceeds will be used to bolster recovery efforts in the Philippines, where more than 5,000 people lost their lives to Typhoon Haiyan, with almost 1 million people displaced and an estimated further 11.8 million affected. The match was also supported by FIFA, who have also contributed to help the Filipino people. In December the FIFA Finance Committee confirmed a special grant of $1 million USD to the rebuilding of the damaged football infrastructure and facilities in the Philippines.

To bolster the local economy UNDP has already begun a cash-for-work project clearing debris in Tacloban, and will continue its efforts to help those who have lost homes, businesses and jobs as a result of the typhoon.

Quoting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Petra Lantz, Director of the UNDP Offices in Geneva, called the annual event “global solidarity at its best,” and thanked the Berne Football Club, Young Boys, all the players and the 21,000 fans “for coming out to show their support for the Philippines.”

Brazilian female football legend and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Marta Vieira da Silva joined the all-male team for only the second time in the match’s history, calling attention to the plight of women and noting that this Saturday 8 March is International Women’s Day.

“When women are lifted out of poverty, families are lifted out of poverty, and the world has more hope,” she said.

Marta, who won the FIFA Female World Player of the Year five consecutive times, recently launched a video appeal to assist the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

“This latest chapter of the Match against Poverty takes us back to Switzerland, where we started out 11 years ago”, noted Zinédine Zidane. "My good friend Ronaldo invited me to take part in this adventure to help tackle poverty and it has been an honour to join him year after year."

“I am very happy to be in a position to be able to contribute to the important cause championed by UNDP,” Ronaldo said, speaking to a press conference an hour before the match.  “All three of us footballers up here on the podium grew up in poverty.  If our lives and our game can contribute to its reduction then the beautiful game will truly be beautiful.”

The first edition of the UNDP Match Against Poverty was held in Basel in 2003. Since then the match has taken place in Madrid, Dusseldorf, Marseille, Malaga, Fes, Lisbon, Athens, Hamburg and Porto Alegre. Each match, which is televised around the world, has supported specific projects in different countries facing difficult challenges.

Although a friendly match, the players competed with passion in an entertaining 8-6 win for the team of all-stars from UNDP.

“Although UNDP scored 8 and the Bern team Young Boys scored 6, it was really the Philippines that scored 14 because both sides were playing for them,” UNDP Partnerships Manager Aziyade Poltier said, who organizes the Match Against Poverty each year.