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Top Footballers Help Charity Campaign


The official charity campaign of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany is "6 Villages for 2006." It's a joint fundraising project between football's world governing body (FIFA) and the international non-governmental organization called SOS Children's Villages. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Germany covering the World Cup and has more.

SOS Children's Villages is a social development organization founded in 1949 with the aim of improving the lives of many deprived children after World War II.

From its beginning in Austria, there are now more than 450 SOS Children's Villages in 132 countries. Most are in Asia and Africa. There are three in the United States, two of them in Illinois and one in Florida.

The focus is on family-based care for orphaned, abandoned and destitute children, as well as integrated community-based programs for families in need. The villages typically have ten to 12 family houses, each with up to eight children and a designated so-called "mother" who is trained to take care of them.

Hugh Linnehan, a spokesman for SOS Children's Villages, told VOA sports about the charity campaign being conducted at the World Cup in Germany.

"The whole reason we are at this World Cup is we have something called '6 Villages for 2006.' And this is a partnership with FIFA where we are constructing six new children's villages around the world - one in [Brovary, near Kiev] Ukraine, one in [Gwagwalada, near Abuja] Nigeria, one in [Rustenburg] South Africa, one in [Igarassu] Brazil, one in [Dong Hoi] Vietnam and the last children's village is in Morelia, Mexico," said Hugh Linnehan.

Linnehan said this campaign hopes to raise 18 million euros, or nearly $25 million, to construct these villages and operate them for five years until they are mostly self-sufficient.

Vital to the campaign, says Linnehan, are the nearly 100 football players who serve in the SOS Children's Villages ambassador program.

"We have some of the more famous players like [Ukraine's] Andriy Shevchenko, [Dutchman] Ruud van Nistelrooy, [England's] Wayne Rooney, [Italian] Fabio Cannavaro, [Italian] Francisco Totti; we have Dunga and Juninho Pernambucano from Brazil and we have many, many very active and committed ambassadors, and they help in any way they can by spreading the message of what we do, our work, and by also doing PR [public relations] events for us, for instance attending a gala or trying to raise money for these children's villages," he said.

Linnehan says the organization is also actively seeking donations online at www.SOS-childrensvillages.org , or www.6villagesfor2006.org.

One of the newest player ambassadors for the organization is U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who signed on while he was at the World Cup.

He told VOA Sports it is a worthy cause.

"Any organization that is helping orphaned or homeless children find a home, what can be a better organization than that? And obviously with the close ties it has with FIFA and football it just felt right," said Kasey Keller. "It's easy to give money and it's harder to give time, and I'm looking forward to giving some time."

Hugh Linnehan says SOS Children's Villages is well on its way of meeting its fundraising goal by the end of the World Cup.

"This is a crucial time for us because during the 31 days of the World Cup is when we are most exposed to the world and so having an event like this is just to bring exposure to our campaign," noted Hugh Linnehan.

Linihann said they were able to bring some of the children in SOS villages in Europe to Germany by bus and put them up in youth hostels. FIFA donated match tickets so the children have been able to experience the thrill of the World Cup.

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