Zinédine Zidane said the donation of UEFA's annual CHF1m charitable cheque to the European Leukodystrophy Association represented "a major contribution by UEFA and an important help for the association".
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As ambassador for the European Leukodystrophy Association, Zinédine Zidane accepted a cheque from UEFA for CHF1m (€619,000) during the draw for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in Monaco.
At the start of each season UEFA donates CHF1m to a charitable or humanitarian cause and the former France midfielder said the ELA were lucky to be selected as this year's recipient. "It is a major contribution by UEFA and an important help for the association I have been sponsoring for the past eight years," Zidane told uefa.com. "I believe we have made good progress and ELA is lucky to receive a cheque from UEFA and its president Michel Platini."
Leukodystrophies are rare genetic diseases, and UEFA's donation will help support a four-year project developing a European information and exchange network. The ELA acts as a solidarity network for families across Europe with the aim of raising awareness of leukodystrophies and to pool resources to aid research. Mr Platini presented the award to Zidane and ELA President Guy Alba, who was instrumental in convincing the former FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner to join the campaign.
"[Alba] came to see me when I played for Juventus in Turin and convinced me I could become part of this association and this family because it needed help to become known," said the 36-year-old, who also played for AS Cannes, FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Real Madrid CF. "That was at a time in my life when I felt I had to do something for other people. There was a good feeling between us and things have been great ever since, even though there is always a lot of work and it is always difficult. We have done a lot since then – not only thanks to me as there are other sponsors who help ELA too – and this gives us motivation to do even more."
The ELA was formed in 1992 and Zidane has been helping the charity raise awareness for the past eight years. "There are various special days, but the start of the academic year is the most important," he said. "In September and October every school in France organises dictation tests and the children know the money collected that day goes to the ELA. I don't know the exact number of children who participate in that, but it's big. Every year more and more children take part. There is also a television show. The concept may vary, but it is a night dedicated to ELA and the money from that goes to the association."
To watch this interview in the latest edition of the uefa.com Magazine, click here.