Football fans in Brazil are getting a unique chance to see the UEFA Champions League trophy as European football's most coveted club prize embarks on a two-month tour of four Latin American countries.
Sao Paulo start
A ceremony in Sao Paulo on Friday launched the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour – sponsored by Heineken and stopping in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. At each destination, the trophy will be the centrepiece of a display including signed football memorabilia and featuring football activities, such as the exclusive opportunity for invitees to be photographed with the trophy in a central location in their city.
In each country, the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour will involve a Trophy Tour ambassador – normally an ex-player – and local celebrities. In Sao Paulo, the ambassador is Bebeto, the marksman who struck 42 goals in 76 internationals for Brazil, contributing three to their FIFA World Cup-winning campaign of 1994, and the highest scorer in the history of Spanish club RC Deportivo La Coruña. "I must thank UEFA for asking me to become a UEFA ambassador for this Trophy Tour," said Bebeto. "I am very happy and deeply touched to have been asked. It is very special for me."
"The UEFA Champions League is incredibly popular around the world – and we are rightly proud of this," said UEFA marketing director Philippe Le Floc'h in his address at the opening ceremony in Sao Paulo. "We have over 140 million television viewers watching live coverage of the UEFA Champions League in 230 countries and territories every matchweek around the world. In Latin America, there are millions watching live every matchweek, and the cumulative live audience for the 2006/07 season was over 65 million."
Following the Sao Paulo leg, the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour moves to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (23/24 February); Buenos Aires, Argentina (6 March); Santiago, Chile (15/16 March); Mexico City, Mexico (5/6 April) and Monterrey, Mexico (12/13 April).
Flavour of the competition
"Our goal is simple – to bring to the passionate football fans of Latin America something of the UEFA Champions League and to let them see and feel the trophy that so many of your compatriots are playing for," said Le Floc'h. "And we have tried to give you a flavour of the competition by adding memorabilia, videos and interactive displays. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we enjoy watching Brazilians and other Latin Americans playing in the UEFA Champions League".
Le Floc'h paid tribute to the vast array of Brazilians who play a major role in the UEFA Champions League action. "We are fortunate enough through our top club competition, the UEFA Champions League, to witness many of your great players playing week in, week out in Europe," he said. "Players like Ronaldinho, Robinho and the World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner, Kaká, to name but a few.
Skill and flair
"In fact, we have 85 Brazilian players registered to play in the UEFA Champions League this year. That is the highest number of any nationality, above France with 65 players, and Italy and Spain with 56. The high number of Brazilians in Europe shows not only the great talent of Brazilian players, admired the world over for their brilliant skill and flair, but also the appeal of the UEFA Champions League – the best of the best competing on the ultimate stage." Le Floc'h also transmitted best wishes for a speedy recovery to AC Milan striker Ronaldo, who suffered a serious knee injury in a Serie A game against AS Livorno Calcio on Wednesday.
"Next week, the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League starts," Le Floc'h concluded, "and I have no doubt that of the many big matches that are forthcoming, the South Americans will play a big part in the results." Trophy Tour details are available from the Further Information box on the UEFA Champions League home page. Click here.
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