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Stars of today and the recent past produced a nine-goal thriller in front of more than 24,000 fans in Hamburg as the ninth Match Against Poverty, backed by UEFA, raised money in support of people in need in the Horn of Africa.
Brazilian ace Ronaldo and French great Zinédine Zidane, Goodwill Ambassadors for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), headed the array of famous names as the UNDP team beat a Hamburger SV all-star side 5-4 at the Hamburg Arena in the German city on Tuesday night.
With organisers and players joining the global effort to address the crisis in the Horn of Africa, where more than 13 million people have been afflicted by famine, drought, conflict and high food prices, Ronaldo, Zidane and company were delighted to turn out in force. "Every year we meet for one reason: this year we came together and played for Africa," said the Brazilian. "And we are happy transmit such an important message to the world, that we have to continue to help and support." Two thirds of the match proceeds will go towards the UN's bid to tackle the ongoing food crisis.
"I think the message has got through," added Zidane. "It's always interesting to know that people are coming for this great cause – they don't come to see a great game, but they know why they are here. That's the most important thing. The message today is again to say that there are problems everywhere, and the fact we are godfathers and we are here, we are making people more aware."
"To participate is great – to create funds which we can contribute to with a spectacle by getting on [the pitch], playing football, having fun, and people seeing us play again," said former Portugal defender Fernando Couto. "For us, it also means we can see old friends again, team-mates and at the same time play football, which is something we enjoy a lot."
Algeria's Rabah Madjer – scorer of a memorable back-heeled goal for FC Porto in the 1987 European Champion Clubs' Cup final – felt the match symbolised football's social power. "I think that a football player is a gatherer," he said. "They gather a lot of people, and people are here, they are very curious to see the stars. Such an initiative allows everyone to come here and watch this game.
"On one hand we are doing this for charity, for poor people, and on the other hand for the people who come to see the stars," he continued. "It's a great thing. As I said, football unites a lot of people, and we, the players, help unite as well."
"The most important thing is the education of everyone, more than the sporting education," added ex-France keeper Fabien Barthez. "On the pitch we always fought, competed against each other, but in the end we are only footballers. It's good to meet each other again, and we knew that in this world that is becoming more and more difficult, we can bring our little touch."
The annual Match Against Poverty seeks to mobilise the public to fight against poverty and promote action on the UN's Millennium Development Goals – eight internationally agreed goals designed to end extreme poverty worldwide by 2015.
To donate to the Horn of Africa crisis, visit undp.org/hornofafrica.
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