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Rivals Unite for UNICEF

A joint statement from Sir Alex Ferguson, Manager, Manchester United and Josep Guardiola, Manager, FC Barcelona in advance of the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final, London.

Rivals Unite for UNICEF

"At 19.45 on Saturday 28 May, the world will be watching as our two clubs, Manchester United and FC Barcelona, meet for the UEFA Champions League Final. For both of our clubs it’s been a truly historic year and this match will be the culmination of two remarkable seasons.

Whilst we each have immense respect for each other's achievements as managers and as teams, on Saturday you will find no two greater rivals. On the pitch we will compete to win in this fierce competition. But off the pitch we each stand united in a common cause - our responsibility to help the most disadvantaged and hardest to reach children through our partnerships with UNICEF. 

It’s no secret that our belief in nurturing young people and helping them to realise their sporting potential is core to both our clubs. But this belief isn’t just limited to our squads. As clubs with global followings we recognise the important responsibility we each have to children not just within the UK and Spain but worldwide. Wherever you are born, as a child you have the right to fulfill your dreams.

Children face huge challenges on a daily basis - challenges just to survive, to grow and to get an education. Every four seconds a child dies due to disease or lack of food. During the 90 minutes it will take to play Saturday’s final an estimated, 1,350 children will die, often from preventable diseases. The children that do make it to school age often drop out by the millions and poverty is often the cause. This is wrong, and we are each supporting UNICEF’s work to put this right.

Since 1999 Manchester United has supported UNICEF. Together we are working to ensure children survive and thrive by funding health centres in the poorest parts of Africa. For the last five years, FC Barcelona has supported UNICEF by funding HIV/AID’s programmes in Africa to prevent HIV/AIDS infection and protect children and families affected. Next season the club is looking forward to taking this ground-breaking partnership to the next stage utilising the social assets of the club in support of a global movement for education and sport that will deliver tangible results for children. Together Manchester United and Barcelona are helping to improve the lives of 2.6 million children.

Of the 100 million people watching on Saturday, many will be children and many of these young people will have faced huge challenges in their day to day lives. Aside from these children having 90 minutes respite from their daily difficulties, many will have been touched by the work of UNICEF that we support. This is the power of football, its ability to reach people across cultures as well as its capacity to bring hope.

There’s a famous quote that ‘football is not just a game of life and death, its more important than that’. In some ways we’d agree. You will not find two more devoted and passionate sets of managers, players and fans and we’ll both do everything in our power to win on Saturday. But, we’re well aware that after our 90 minutes of pain are up, millions of children will continue to face extreme challenges every second of every day.

So, as Managers, we are both proud to have some of the world’s greatest supporters but we are equally proud that both of our clubs support UNICEF in its work for the world’s children. This incredible organisation relies of support and donations from across the board, so we’d like to thank all of our players and fans who have helped us to help children." 

Sir Alex Ferguson -Manager, Manchester United and Josep Guardiola - Manager, FC Barcelona