Soccer stars play match for Haiti earthquake relief

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 25 -- The UN Development Program (UNDP) kicked off its annual star-studded soccer game on Monday for the Match Against Poverty in Portugal where proceeds will go towards the victims of the quake-hit Haiti.

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Luis Figo (R) of Portugal stands next to Zinedine Zidane of France before the seventh "Match against Poverty" at Luz stadium in Lisbon January 25, 2010. With tickets at 10 euros each, the match will raise funds for victims of a magnitude-7 quake on January 12 in Haiti which killed more than 200,000 people, leaving up to three million hurt or homeless in nightmarish conditions in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded relief efforts and the world of sport for coming together in giving hope.

This is the seventh edition of the tournament organized by the UNDP where Goodwill Ambassadors and World Cup winners, Zinedine Zidane of France and Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima of Brazil, teamed up to raise donations towards global efforts in eliminating poverty.

In Ban's message delivered by his special advisor Wilfried Lemke on sport for development and peace in Lisbon, Portugal, he noted that this year's match takes on added significance where proceeds of the game will go towards Haitians who need assistance.

"We at the United Nations welcome your solidarity at the country's time of dire need," the message said as world-famous players are giving hope to the Haitians who have lost everything.

In the message, Ban also asked people to remember victims of recent attacks on sporting events, most notably in Angola and Pakistan, which he said "competitors and fans alike were victims".

"Such horrendous acts must strengthen our resolve to use sport as a force for peace-building and reconciliation," Ban said in the message.

"I call on the world of sport and its supporters around the world to continue to help the United Nations in its efforts to help the people of Haiti to recover and rebuild."

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Soccer players and referees pose before the seventh "Match against Poverty" at Luz stadium in Lisbon January 25, 2010.

This year's international rooster of soccer players include former World Player of the Year Kaka and Haitian talents Jean Sony and Joseph Peterson.

The match also hopes to spotlight the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to reduce global poverty in half by 2015.

"The Match Against Poverty shows yet again how athletes, the UN family and the world of sport can work together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to build a better world," the message said.

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Ronaldo, Zidane & Friends' team pay respect to the victims of Haiti in a one minute silence prior to their UNDP's VII Match Against Poverty friendly soccer match with Benfica All Stars' team at Benfica's Luz Stadium in Monday, Jan. 25, 2010.