FIFA World Cup: UN picks Super Eagles as ambassadors

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ABUJA – The United Nations on Monday picked the Eagles as its goodwill ambassadors for the 2014 FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in Brazil between June 12 and July 13.

Djibril Diallo, Special Advisor to Executive Director, United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja to announce the lunch of its ‘Protect the Goal Initiative’.

The ‘Protect the Goal Initiative’ seeks to harness the power of sports around the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

It also seeks to an AIDS free generation which is expected to be achieved through zero infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related death.

Diallo said the Eagles were chosen as the UN ambassadors because of pedigree in football as well as the political and economic role Nigeria was playing in .

“We as United Nations want to focus on using HIV and AIDS as entry point to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post 2015 agenda.

“So, we are focusing heavily on using sports as a means to accelerate the MDGs in the developing countries, while having the solidarity and partnership of the industrialised nations,’’ he said.

Diallo also said the initiative targeted the 32 qualified teams for the 2014 World Cup, adding that Nigeria was the focal point.

“The kicked off on March 5 in South Africa during the friendly game between Brazil and South Africa; we had the signature of President Jacob Zuma on the ball.

“The campaign will go to the five African nations that have qualified for the World Cup.

“After Nigeria, we are going to Cote d’Ivoire where the President and the football team will do the same exercise and from there to Algeria.

“We will also go to Ghana and do the same thing with the Head of State and the national football team,’’ Diallo explained.

He said that the campaign would transverse Mexico and Chile between May 25 and June 5 before leaving for Brazil on June 7 for the World on June 9.

“President Goodluck Jonathan as the special guest will hand the ball to the president of Brazil on that day,’’ he said.

Prof. John Idoko, who also spoke on the reason behind the UN’s choice of Nigeria, explained that Nigeria was one of the countries with high prevalence rate of HIV and AIDS infection.

According to him, 14 countries in the world are responsible for the 60 per cent of the burden of HIV and out of these 14, 10 are in Africa.

“So, if you are going and really want to protect the goal, you must go to Africa and Nigeria is the place to be,’’ Idoko said.

According to Idoko, the idea is to continue to create awareness on HIV and AIDS using football which arguably attracts the largest followership in sports in Nigeria.

The event is organised in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA). (NAN)