24 October 2003


VIENNA 24 October (UN Information Service) -- Each of the international football stars and dignitaries who attended the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Football without Borders camp used their own methods to communicate with the young players, but the messages were the same: football -- and sport, in general -- is a unifying force and an opportunity to build goodwill and positive life experiences.

The camp which concluded this week in Doha, Qatar, aimed at bringing together young football players from Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar to play football together, share cultures and learn healthy life skills. UNODC and the Asian Football Confederation organised the camp which was hosted by the Qatar National Olympic Committee.

Spanish national team all-time leading goal scorer Fernando Hierro suited up for scrimmages. Former FC Kaiserlautern captain Mario Basler set up drills. French national team player and former Chelsea star Frank Lebouef gave advice on fair play and respect for opponents and referees and posed for photos. FIFA President Sepp Blatter kicked footballs and UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa signed them for the 80 boys attending the camp.

“Football is not only a game, but a way of life”, Blatter told the young players.  “I am pleased to see youth engaged in sports, which is an alternative to drugs and other vices”, added Mr. Costa. One of the goals of the camp was to promote the idea of living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle through sport.

The visits by Blatter, Costa and the professional players, all of whom currently play in Qatar’s professional league, came during the three-day Football without Borders camp.

The young players picked up on these messages and the aims of the camp. “We now know how important it is to respect the game, your rivals, coach, teammates and to pledge fair play”, said Ammar, a player from Iraq.

Twenty boys, aged 12-14, from each of the four countries (Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar) were chosen to participate, with the hope that they would return home and share their experiences at the camp with their peers.

Wearing the uniforms of Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and AC Milan, the boys were divided into four multinational teams, irrespective of race or religion, using sport as a uniting force that transcends national borders. In addition to football instruction and competition, the young players ate with their new teammates and participated in workshops led by UNODC to help the campers develop leadership skills and the knowledge to make healthy lifestyle choices.

The coaches also received special training to better understand the qualities of sport that promote the overall development of young people, which they will now practice with their teams in their home countries.


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Photos from the camp available upon request.

Please contact Shannon Brown at shannon.brown@unodc.org.