Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football for Hope

Just a few days after one of the worst events in professional sports, the NFL Pro Bowl, soccer reminded the world why it is its most popular game.

Forty of soccer’s greatest stars placed a pause on their club seasons, many of which are reaching stretch runs, and made a trip to Spain to play in Tuesday’s “Football for Hope” match. Soccer’s elite paid tribute to the victims of last December’s tsunami in Southeast Asia at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium — the club donated use of its field completely free of charge.

Shortly after the tragedy, soccer’s governing body, FIFA, sprang into action, forming the Tsunami Solidarity Fund with the Asian Football Confederation and began planning Tuesday’s match in conjunction with the Union of European Football Associations.


Players similarly began preparations. World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho and European Footballer of the Year Andriy Shevchenko accepted captains’ honors for the contest, with the latter leading the European team and the former serving as the world team’s skipper.

“I know what it’s like when life is not easy; to suffer, and that’s why I’d never turn down an opportunity to help,” Ronaldinho told a day before the game.

Shevchenko nearly couldn’t even play in the match. The AC Milan star suffered an injury just over two weeks ago against league rival Bologna. However, the Ukrainian took the field Tuesday on a cold Barcelona night.

“We know our efforts are minor compared with the enormity of catastrophes like this, but the least we can do is get together and do what we do best,” Shevchenko told “Maybe we can put a smile back on a few people’s faces.”

Players from all over the world committed to the cause. Arsenal striker and French international Thierry Henry flew in from England for the match, just a day after scoring a pair of goals in a win over English Premier League foe Crystal Palace. Stars were aplenty on the pitch.



Steven Gerrard.

Hidetoshi Nakata.

Zinedine Zidane.

And the most popular athlete in the world and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, the one and only David Beckham.

These players and others sacrificed training time during a key point of many professional seasons by flying to Barcelona to play for no pay. Some might say, “Of course they did. Any pampered athlete should be more than happy to contribute to a cause like this.”

But how many actually do?

How many players in any sport would leave the country to participate in a charity game scheduled near the end of their team’s season? The NFC squad at the Pro Bowl broke its huddle during practice saying “35” each time, representing the $35,000 winner’s share in the game. Think that group would fly somewhere in December to compete in a profitless game?

The NFL toots its own horn repeatedly throughout the season, but the league’s fund-raising efforts for the tsunami victims mainly entailed gathering collections outside its teams’ respective stadiums. Not to bash those efforts, but isn’t the NFL the king of sports leagues in America?

A slew of NBA players donated $1,000 per point scored in various games. Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady posted 27 and 26 points, respectively, in their fund-raising efforts, but what does that amount really mean to two players who each make more than $14 million per year?

The San Francisco Giants auctioned off several prizes, including a meeting with Barry Bonds. Wait, weren’t they trying to raise money?

Not to take away from any of these athletes’ efforts; something is much better than nothing. FIFA, UEFA and its players simply took it a step further.

All in all, the two teams played 90 minutes of far-from-fundamental soccer, with Ronaldinho’s squad besting Shevchenko’s group 6-3. Barcelona striker and African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o led the way with two goals in front of his home crowd. Ronaldinho, who also plays for Barcelona, dazzled the fans with his ball moves. However, soccer was merely the surface of the game’s underlying cause. While attendance didn’t reach the expected sellout of Nou Camp’s 100,000 capacity, the match’s proceeds raised FIFA’s Solidarity Fund earnings to nearly $10 million.

FIFA president Joseph Blatter called the match “a great moment for international football.”

Blatter could have taken it a step further — this was a moment of compassion by some of the greatest athletes in the world.

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