UEFA have tonight presented a cheque for €100,000 to Lionel Messi – who amassed almost 250,000 votes to be named first-choice striker in the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2009 – to be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
William Gaillard, adviser to the UEFA president Michel Platini, handed over the cheque to FC Barcelona's No10 before the Blaugrana's UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg against VfB Stuttgart at Camp Nou. For the third time, this money will be going from the hands of the Team of the Year's biggest vote winner to one of UEFA's long-standing partners, the ICRC, and to its campaign to support land-mine victims in Afghanistan.
UEFA began its partnership with the ICRC when it started to support its anti-land mine campaign in 1997. All monies donated have gone to the Score for the Red Cross initiative in aid of the ICRC rehabilitation project for land-mine victims in Afghanistan, which provides artificial limbs, physiotherapy and vocational training.
Ahead of receiving the cheque, Argentina forward Messi said: "It was a great honour for me to be elected in the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2009. This also helped me realise how lucky I am and how much I can give to less fortunate people around the world. Therefore, it is of great importance to me to present the cheque for €100,000 to the ICRC, which will support that organisation in helping children who really need it."
Alberto Cairo, who oversees the ICRC's orthopaedic programme in Afghanistan, said: "We are very grateful for Lionel Messi's support which helps finance the treatment we provide for hundreds of mine victims and other disabled every year. Football is an inspiration for many Afghans, especially children. Many of them know and admire Lionel Messi."
The UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2009 was: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF); Daniel Alves (FC Barcelona), John Terry (Chelsea FC), Carles Puyol (FC Barcelona), Patrice Evra (Manchester United FC); Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF), Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona), Kaká (Real Madrid CF), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona); Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona), Zlatan Ibrahimović (FC Barcelona). Coach Josep Guardiola (FC Barcelona).
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