The UK Minister for Sport Richard Caborn, Chelsea Commercial Director Lorraine O'Brien and Chelsea player Mario Stanic today kick off Britain's biggest ever campaign to collect football shirts and to raise funds for underprivileged youth in Iraq.
England Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson will be taking to the pitch to help launch the appeal.
The campaign, launched by global humanitarian organisation CARE International, will involve the whole of the UK football industry – from Premiership Clubs to Sunday Leagues and sports retailers – and aims to raise £1 million in funds to support essential youth and community projects in Iraq.
Will Day, chief executive of CARE said: 'We want people up and down the country – in football leagues, schools and communities – to get involved, donate their kit, join up to play 5-a-side and much more.
This is a great way for the UK public to help Iraq’s young people.' Also attending the launch is Ali Abbas, the Iraqi boy who is in London for medical treatment after losing both arms in the bombing of Baghdad.
He and his friend Ahmed Hamza are taking part in a kick-about with members of London’s Iraqi Community Association.
'In Iraq, they say first boys learn to play football, then they learn to read and write,' said CARE Iraq Director Margaret Hassan. Hassan added:
'There is very little to feel good about in Iraq. Now, more than ever, Iraq’s children need something to raise their spirits.
Being able to put on a proper football strip will fill kids with pride, but more importantly we hope enough funds will be raised to support various community initiatives, including health, education and employment schemes.'
Appeal Activities Donate a shirt The launch will kick-start the collection of shirts. Every style and size of football shirt is welcomed for the Footie4Iraq appeal, especially children’s shirts. Donations from celebrities and sports stars will be auctioned on the Internet site ebay.
eBay Auction Next spring, CARE will be auctioning off priceless football memorabilia and experiences to raise money for the Footie4Iraq appeal.
It could be a chance to join the FA cup winners on their bus-top tour or to attend a training session with a Premiership club.
5-a-side As well as donating tops, the public will also be able to get involved in a UK-wide 5-a-side football event. Starting in January there will be regional heats throughout the country with a national final and a top prize to play for.
Regional Initiatives Also planned are a series of regional initiatives aimed at raising awareness of the Footie4Iraq appeal, and to help CARE International realise its aim of raising £1 million for youth and community programmes in Iraq and collecting as many football tops as possible ready for transportation to Iraq at the end of the season.