Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho, one of the world’s best known sports figures and a United Nations goodwill ambassador, has launched an institute in Porte Alegre, Brazil, to help disadvantaged children through sport and education, an initiative that shows the way forward in global development, a senior UN official said in welcoming the move.
“With the launch of the institute, that dream of helping the most vulnerable children and youth in Porto Alegre has come true,” said an emotional Ronaldo Assis de Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho, at Wednesday’s launch.
The UN is cooperating with the institute and will provide technical advice and assist in recruiting professional staff before the programme begins next March, as it shows the power of sport to help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets to slash poverty and other global ills by 2015, the world body said.
“The United Nations salutes Ronaldinho and his family for launching this new initiative that shows how sport can contribute to improving the lives of children and young people and progress towards achieving the MDGs,” said Djibril Diallo, Director of the Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), in a statement on behalf of Adolf Ogi, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the same issue.
The Ronaldinho Gaúcho Institute aims to provide poor children and youth access to education, health care and cultural activities, with a capacity of 3,500 youngsters a month. These young people will take part in football, tennis and other sports, as well as attending workshops on information technology, languages, theatre, music and other classes. Along with health care, the institute will also offer dental treatment.
Ronaldinho, who plays with the FC Barcelona team, met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan and was appointed UN Spokesperson for Sport for Development and Peace in August 2006 by UNOSDP, which is cooperating with his initiative on behalf of the world body. He also serves as a UN World Food Programme (WFP) Ambassador Against Hunger.
“If a young person develops his or her talent in sport through the project, then that is great. However, this is not our main focus. We want to create opportunities for growth and education,” said Roberto Assis de Moreira, brother of Ronaldinho and Executive President of the institute.
During Wednesday’s launch, names were collected for an auction to raise funds for the institute involving items from the Nike 10R product line developed especially for Ronaldinho. The auction will take place from 5 to 15 January on the website of E-bay international at www.ebay.com/ronaldinhogaucho.