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UEFA and Real Madrid CF forward Cristiano Ronaldo have united to assist the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its rehabilitation project for land-mine victims in Afghanistan – with UEFA.com users providing invaluable help in the bargain.
On Wednesday evening, European football's governing body presented a cheque for €100,000 to Ronaldo, in recognition of his achievement in being voted no fewer than seven times into the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year. Ronaldo in turn donated the cheque to the ICRC's physical rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan.
Ronaldo received the cheque from UEFA Executive Committee member Peter Gilliéron and handed it on to Caroline Welch-Ballentine, ICRC director of human resources, ahead of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg between Madrid and Manchester United FC at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
"The people who go to the stadium and buy the tickets," Ronaldo told UEFA.com, "they really love football, and therefore it's with great pride and great joy that we receive the [Team of the Year] prize – with it having been voted for by the fans.
"For me, it's an honour to participate in social acts to help those who need it most," Ronaldo added. "It makes me extremely happy."
The 28-year-old Portuguese international, a member of the Team of the Year in 2004 as well as all selections from 2007 onwards, earned 255,803 individual votes to win a place in the forward line along with FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the UEFA.com users' 2012 team.
In 2008, Ronaldo had presented UEFA's CHF 100,000 (€63,100) charity cheque to the ICRC for the UEFA EURO 2008 Score for the Red Cross campaign, organised by the ICRC and UEFA, in recognition of his 2007 Team of the Year nomination and role as ambassador for Score for the Red Cross.
"The ICRC is delighted to receive this support for its physical rehabilitation activities in Afghanistan," said Welch-Ballentine on behalf of the ICRC. "That these activities – and more importantly, the need to help people who have lost their limbs – are viewed as a priority by UEFA and stars like Ronaldo continues to be greatly appreciated.
"This money will help us to help people who have lost limbs to land mines in Afghanistan," she added. "Every month, over 60 people there are killed or injured by these horrific devices. Last year alone at our seven physical rehabilitation centres in Afghanistan, we fitted 1,218 amputees with artificial limbs and taught them to walk again."
"Afghans have a passion for football. The ball plays a key role not only in football, but also in the rehabilitation process of land-mine victims," said Peter Gilliéron on behalf of UEFA. "We thank Cristiano Ronaldo for scoring for the Red Cross."
A record 5.3 million votes were cast in selecting the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2012. This represents a 20% increase on the number of votes for the 2011 team. Nearly half a million users were involved, eclipsing the 2010 record, when 400,000 users made five million selections. Some 50,000 of this year's picks were made directly via the official UEFA Champions League Twitter page, an option available for the first time.
UEFA has been working with the ICRC since 1997 when it first pledged its support for the campaign against land mines. A joint initiative for UEFA EURO 2004, called Let Us Play, centred on the protection of children in war; for UEFA EURO 2008, the Score for the Red Cross online fundraising campaign backed the rehabilitation programme for land-mine victims in Afghanistan and other national Red Cross and Red Crescent projects.
The ICRC rehabilitation scheme for land-mine victims in Afghanistan delivers artificial limbs, physiotherapy, vocational training, employment and small-business activities. The ICRC's limb-fitting and rehabilitation programme has helped more than 95,000 mine victims and other disabled people since its launch in 1988.
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