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Stars make stand against poverty

Zinédine Zidane said he hoped the annual UNDP Match Against Poverty would encourage people "to join the team to end poverty now" after an entertaining star-studded game in Athens.

A crowd of 30,000 attended the match in Piraeus
A crowd of 30,000 attended the match in Piraeus ©AFP

A glittering list of footballing talent was on display in Athens on Tuesday night for the eighth edition of the Match Against Poverty, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiative, backed by UEFA, which Zinédine Zidane and Ronaldo helped to organise.

A host of international footballers past and present, together with more than 30,000 spectators, turned out for the match at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, the home of Olympiacos FC, with all proceeds from the UNDP event being directed towards the global effort to reduce poverty and achieve the United Nations' eight millennium development goals (MDGs).

Former France playmaker Zidane, who as a UNDP goodwill ambassador assisted in organising the game in Greece, said: "I hope this eighth Annual Match Against Poverty will help communicate a sense of urgency that we all need to join the team to end poverty now."

SC Corinthians Paulista striker Ronaldo, who did not play because of injury, added: "I am very proud to be here for this special match, even though I cannot take part on the field. I want to say a big thanks to Olympiacos, all the players who responded when we called and especially the fans who came to see the game."

A stellar selection put together by Zidane, fellow UNDP goodwill ambassador Ronaldo and coached by Radomir Antić and Hugo Sánchez, were held to a 2-2 draw by an all-star Olympiacos team. In a carnival atmosphere, Ricardo Sá Pinto set the ball rolling for Zidane's side, the forward lobbing Olympiacos goalkeeper Balázs Megyeri in the ninth minute and slotting in Nuno Gomes's pass ten minutes later.

Olympiacos coach Ernesto Valverde made nine changes after 25 minutes, introducing a clutch of players from his current squad, and Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou fired in two minutes later to delight the home crowd. The same player levelled matters at 2-2 soon after half-time, dribbling skilfully past goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis before shooting into the empty net.

Zidane did provide a few trademark flicks, and the 38-year-old former FC Girondins de Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid CF man almost put his team back in front, but headed over before being substituted to a standing ovation with 20 minutes left.

The Friends of Ronaldo and Zidane were: Antonis Nikopolidis (Greece), Ronald de Boer (Netherlands), Darko Kovačević (Serbia), Mahamadou Diarra (Mali), Nuno Gomes (Portugal), Sabri Lamouchi (France), Ricardo Sá Pinto (Portugal), Cornel Râpă (Romania), Raúl Albiol (Spain), Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands), Pierre van Hooijdonk (Netherlands), William (Brazil), Anthar Yahia (Algeria), Silviu Ilie (Romania), Marius Găman (Romania).

The Olympiacos All-Star XI comprised much of the present squad, along with several Olympiacos old boys – both retired and playing elsewhere – including Giorgos Anatolakis (Atromitos FC), Predrag Djordjević, Alexandros Alexandris, Andreas Niniadis, Grigoris Georgatos, Darko Kovačević and Christian Karembeu.

The Match Against Poverty, which has UEFA and FIFA backing, raises awareness and funds for the global battle against poverty while also spotlighting the invaluable work of the UNDP. All income accruing from tickets, sponsors, broadcasting rights and direct donations will, for this eighth edition, go towards the fight against poverty worldwide − with particular emphasis on the millions of people affected by the Haiti earthquake last January and the Pakistan floods that started in the summer.

The UNDP is the United Nations' global network to help people meet their development needs and build a better life, and the Match Against Poverty is an ideal means of underlining the challenge of addressing global poverty. The millennium development goals were adopted in 2000 and seek to halve world poverty by 2015 by setting targets for rolling back hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.