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UEFA and FC Barcelona's outstanding midfielder Xavi Hernández have joined forces to help the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and their rehabilitation project – thanks also to the users of UEFA.com.
European football's governing body has presented a cheque for €100,000 to Xavi, who received the most individual votes – almost 100,000 – to be named captain of the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2011. Xavi has in turn donated the cheque to the ICRC for the Red Cross's physical rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan.
UEFA Executive Committee member Peter Gilliéron and Pierre Kraehenbuehl, ICRC director of operations, handed over the cheque to the Spanish international before the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg between Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen 04 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
"It gives me great pleasure to present, on behalf of UEFA, a cheque for €100,000 to the captain of the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2011 – Barcelona's Xavi Hernàndez," said Mr Gilliéron. "For the fifth time, the Team of the Year award will help mine victims learn how to walk and play again."
"It's an honour to be part of the team and also to be captain," said Xavi. "It's an honour to represent European and world football, and in this case we are helping people who are more vulnerable and who need it – so I am proud in that sense.
"It is very important to help," he added. "We are privileged people in society. We have it good, through living our passion. It's a profession of course but it's also a hobby and a passion. So to be able to help people who need it, it's a beautiful cause and I feel very proud."
Barcelona have proudly provided four UEFA.com Team of the Year captains, and Xavi is savouring the honour for the second time, having donated the €100,000 cheque in 2008. Since then, his team-mates Lionel Messi (2009) and Carles Puyol (2010) have taken the armband.
UEFA has been working with the ICRC since 1997 when it first backed the campaign against land mines. A joint initiative for UEFA EURO 2004, called Let Us Play, centred on the protection of children in war; for UEFA EURO 2008, meanwhile, UEFA organised an online fundraising campaign, Score for the Red Cross, in support of a rehabilitation programme for land-mine victims in Afghanistan and other national Red Cross and Red Crescent projects.
"This is an important and much appreciated gesture," said Mr Kraehenbuehl of the ICRC. "It will directly benefit mine victims and other disabled people we assist in Afghanistan. Every day these activities change people's lives. Needs, however, remain very high across Afghanistan and this support will help us in increasing and improving our physical rehabilitation activities."
The ICRC rehabilitation scheme for land-mine victims in Afghanistan provides artificial limbs, physiotherapy and vocational training. The ICRC's limb-fitting and rehabilitation programme has helped more than 95,000 mine victims and other disabled people since it was established in 1988.
The 2011 UEFA.com users' Team of the Year, for which over 4.5 million votes were cast: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF & Spain); Daniel Alves (FC Barcelona), Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona & Spain), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Marcelo (Real Madrid CF); Arjen Robben (FC Bayern München & Netherlands), Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona & Spain), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona & Spain), Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC & Wales); Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF & Portugal). Josep Guardiola (FC Barcelona).
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