23 November 2009 – A street football from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, made from paper, wrapped in plastic bags and tied with string – and signed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – was the top scorer at a United Nations-backed gala auction in Dubai last night that raised nearly $1 million for Palestinian youth.
The football, also signed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge fetched $205,000.
Other items included a signed football and match T-shirt from the English Chelsea Football Club, a Dubai World Cup VIP package (including tickets, travel and accommodation), a tennis ball and official programme signed by top female tennis players including the Williams sisters, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic, and a signed match T-shirt and photograph of tennis champion Roger Federer.
The gala dinner was hosted by Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, a UN Messenger of Peace who is the wife of the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Mr. Ban’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke. Mr. Ban joined in with a recorded video message.
For many years the UN has acknowledged the importance of sport in advancing social and humanitarian goals, with its agencies enlisting star athletes and major sporting events in campaigns to promote immunization against childhood diseases and other public health measures, to support the fight against racism and apartheid, and for human rights.
“Our passion for sport in this region provides us with an opportunity to change lives and develop young people,” Princess Haya said. “None of us have the capacity to individually solve the problems of the world, but collectively, we can help find solutions and provide hope to the children and youth of Palestine.”
Mr. Lemke referred to his visit to the occupied Palestinian territory earlier this year. “What I saw there changed my life,” he said. “Sometimes it is only when we see things first hand that we can understand just a little of what these people, these children, went through and continue to go through, every day. We have an obligation to help these children. We have an obligation to provide them opportunities to improve their lives.”