Man Utd plays on U.N. lawnPosted: Tuesday July 29, 2003 7:49 PM
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Manchester United superstars scored major points Tuesday with New York children and international diplomats alike, teaming with UNICEF to host a soccer clinic on the lawn of U.N. headquarters.
The clinic was held in honor of the English soccer team's significant contributions to children around the world.
Manchester United has raised more than $1.6 million for the United Nations Children's Fund, and the team recently launched UNICEF's new three-year campaign to end child exploitation.
"It's a wonderful thing to celebrate a world that can come
The brief soccer play on the lawn did bring people together -- from a diverse range of ages, stations and backgrounds -- but there were no winners or losers.
Instead, children who play for the Brooklyn Patriots and the Manhattan Spirit soccer teams learned tips from the professionals, who signed autographs in between.
Earl "Mango" Pierre, a U.N. security guard, also showed the crowd his prowess with a soccer ball, skillfully transferring it from his head to his shoulder to his practiced feet.
Inocencio Arias, Spain's U.N. ambassador and the current president of the Security Council, appeared in soccer attire -- a throwback to his days as the owner of Manchester United's main European rival, Real Madrid.
Nane Annan, wife of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, spoke on behalf of her husband who made a very brief unexpected appearance to pose for a photo with the team.
"We usually associate the U.N. with the gravest issues facing the world -- war and poverty," she said. "Today we have a much happier reason -- to play or celebrate one of the world's greatest games -- football, or soccer."
She did mention war, however, expressing sympathy for UNICEF goodwill ambassador and former soccer star George Weah, whose native country, Liberia, is in crisis. Weah coached and played for Liberia's national team, but said threats from President Charles Taylor's government forced him from the country in 2002.
"Rest assured that we at the United Nations are committed to doing our utmost to help your country," Mrs. Annan said.
Weah, who now plays for the Abu Dhabi club Al Jazira, praised UNICEF and Manchester United.
"We must all do our part to help protect children from all forms of violence, neglect and abuse," Weah said, before taking the field with the other professionals and the children.
The players shared oranges during breaks, in an English soccer tradition.
Mark Darmanie, 7, of Brooklyn, gushed about his love for soccer as he waited to have his shirt signed by Ryan Giggs, his favorite player.
"It's not like other sports," Darmanie said. He rattled off names of friends he's made through soccer and then ran to meet Giggs.
Giggs was joined by fellow Manchester United players Roy Carroll, Quinton Fortune and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as well as team manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who is UNICEF's special representative in Britain.
The team is on an East Coast tour and is scheduled to play Italian champion Juventus at Giants Stadium on Thursday night.
"It's nice for us to be here making a difference -- hopefully," Solskjaer said. "That's what we're hoping to do.
"I think football brings everyone together. I've got so many good memories and good friends through football."