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The Stefano Borgonovo Foundation has expressed its delight and gratitude at receiving the 2012 UEFA Monaco Charity Award – and the opportunity to raise awareness of the research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The €1m cheque was handed over to Stefano Borgonovo's wife Chantal and Italian football great Fabio Cannavaro by UEFA President Michel Platini at the official gala dinner following the UEFA Champions League group stage draw in Monaco on Thursday.
Stefano Borgonovo, the former AC Milan and ACF Fiorentina striker of the late 1980s and early 1990s, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 42. It is a severe neurological condition which causes the progressive loss of all muscle function. The foundation was set up by the former Italian international, now 48, his wife Chantal and eldest daughter Alessandra on 13 December 2008 with the aim of helping the 350,000 ALS sufferers worldwide.
"It has an enormous impact," Chantal Borgonovo said of the UEFA award. "Our foundation was set up four years ago, we founded it due to Stefano's disease, and this UEFA award raises a certain awareness on a global platform.
"For us, it's very important because this awareness gives us the chance to talk about a disease that is spread around the world, and every year affects more people than you might think. We support the research and we need to raise money for it. And this publicity can certainly give us a hand, with more people knowing about it, who could then decide to support us."
Mrs Borgonovo explained the ALS illness. "The disease affects all muscles, and unfortunately up until now it is usually terminal," she said. "There is no cure, but there is a lot of research being done on it. There has been a huge push over the last ten years and the research has made big steps forward. But as I said, there is no cure yet, although the researchers are confident that a cure will be found within the next few years.
"With this contribution from UEFA, we will continue supporting a project that focuses on brain cell therapy. In Italy two months ago there was the first brain cell transplant to a person affected by this disease, and it was the first experiment of that sort in the whole of Europe. In the US they already started with it a couple of years ago, but in Europe it was the first one."
How did Stefano Borgonovo react to UEFA's award? "Stefano was very delighted about it," Chantal Borgonovo replied. "My husband has been a football person from the beginning, he was basically born into football, he was a professional footballer and even played for the national team. He loves football. And at the beginning of his disease, and when the foundation was established, he was convinced that the football world, due to its media exposure and economic power, could give great help in finding a cure for this disease."
Fabio Cannavaro, a world champion with Italy in 2006 and one of the best defenders of his generation, expressed his pride at being involved in the presentation. "First of all we all know Stefano and the powerful person that he is; and this award will certainly give to the Borgonovo Foundation the possibility to help understand where this disease comes from, and above all how to cure it. But it's not only for Stefano, but for everybody who is affected by such diseases. It's very important and I'm very proud."
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