UEFA Champions League finalists Manchester United and Barcelona have joined forces to issue an eve-of-match pledge to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS with global children's charity UNICEF.
Both clubs have close ties to the organisation, to which Sir Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are long-time ambassadors. United's ten-year association is now channelled through the club's charitable arm, the Manchester United foundation.
It is estimated the Foundation has already raised £2 million, which has helped 1.5 million children across the globe, including youngsters affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa, Asia, China and India. Barcelona, meanwhile, broke with history when they decided to wear the UNICEF name on their shirts, the first time in the club's 107-year history they have allowed any insignia on the cherished kit.
UNICEF believe during the 90 scheduled minutes of this week's final 72 children will get infected with HIV, with 50 more dying as a result of AIDS. Red Devils chief executive David Gill also put his name to a joint declaration with Barcelona president which commits the respective clubs to maintain their work, no matter what the outcome in Rome this week.
"Wednesday's match will not only be followed by fans in England, Catalonia and Spain, but by passionate, hopeful supporters in all corners of the globe," said Gill and Laporta in their joint statement. "This is the power of football, its capacity to bring hope and its ability to reach people across cultures.
"Our players are role models to millions, and we recognise that our clubs can play a vital role in changing children's lives. Together we are each committed to using this power to support UNICEF by spreading important, lifesaving messages about health, education and HIV prevention. Together we are committed to supporting vital UNICEF projects worldwide, and protecting children's rights everywhere."