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Europe Plays Soccer to Combat Hunger

Over 200 professional soccer [football] clubs, 100 stadiums and millions of fans are involved in the first ever Europe-wide soccer "weekend against hunger." The "Professional Football Against Hunger" campaign is helping raise awareness of food shortages in Third World countries.

Matches are being played across Europe in an effort to raise awareness about the 963 million people around the world suffering from hunger.

The event is part of a campaign launched last October by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Professional Football Leagues to celebrate World Food Day at the agency's headquarters in Rome.

FAO Director General Jacques Diouf says the number of hungry people today is more than 10,000 times the number of people that can fill any major soccer stadium in the world.

"This is a historic kick-off weekend. It means sports professionals, football fans and young people around the world have an opportunity to raise the resources we need to achieve food security in these times of crisis," said Diouf.

Funds raised by the campaign will finance micro-projects designed to help poor families and communities and enable them to produce their own food.

A lot of the biggest names in soccer will be taking part in the matches this weekend.

Hansi Müller (Ambassador of the German Bundesliga) and Paolo Rossi (Ambassador of the Italian Lega Calcio), who visited some of the projects in Egypt, are convinced of the positive impact these small-scale initiatives will have on the rural poor.

For Paolo Rossi, soccer is a fantastic means of getting the message across because children recognize the players and listen to what we have to say.

Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez, who is also playing this weekend, pointed out that the poorest people are the most affected by the economic crisis. He says that like soccer, the fight against hunger will take sacrifice, perseverance and commitment.