30 July 2003


NEW YORK, 29 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, delivered by his wife, Nane Annan, to the Manchester United soccer clinic held today at United Nations Headquarters to celebrate the “United for UNICEF” partnership, which has raised more than 1 million pounds for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) purposes around the world since 1999:

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the United Nations.

We usually associate the United Nations with the gravest issues facing the world, such as war and poverty.  Today we are here for a much happier reason:  to play and celebrate one of the world’s greatest games:  football, or “soccer”, as the Brooklyn Patriots and Manhattan Spirit call it.

Of course, football is more than a game.  It is a life-affirming sport.  It gives boys and girls a chance to play and use their talents to the fullest.  It is good for one’s health and self-esteem.  It can draw young people away from the dangers of drugs and crime.

For children growing up in the shadow of war, it can help them overcome the traumas they have suffered, and provide some coaching to those deprived of a parent’s guiding hand.

And no matter how old you are, it can teach lifelong lessons about teamwork, and about playing against others as rivals, not enemies -- although, of course, I know that some football rivalries are as volatile as those we have to mediate here at the United Nations!

I would like to thank Manchester United for your longstanding commitment to the “United for UNICEF”’ partnership.  For years, the stars of Manchester United have thrilled the world with their amazing feet, and athletic feats.  Today, we applaud you for giving us a different kind of thrill -- the thrill of seeing you take a stand for a better world for children.

I would also like to say a special word to George Weah, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and someone whose country, Liberia, is experiencing acute suffering at the moment.  Rest assured that we, at the United Nations, are committed to doing our utmost to help your country end its current crisis and regain the path of peace.

 Finally, let me thank all others who have helped make this event possible.  I invite you now to “kick off” this event and have some fun.  May we all, together, score and reach our goals!

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