Wycombe Wanderers - Saturday 17th December 2011

On Tuesday night, before printing deadlines for today’s programme, the 2011 version of the Match Against Poverty took place at the Imtech Arena in Hamburg, Germany. The game being contested between a HSV All-Stars side and a team entitled ‘Ronaldo, Zidane and Friends’, the latter sounding like a really bad idea for a chat show. The match being the ninth UEFA-backed Match Against Poverty to have been played since its inception in 2003, when the first game, which raised approximately 650,000 euros, was played at St Jakob Park, Basle, Swizerland.

This year organisers and players have decided that the match should be played in aid of the crisis in the Horn of Africa, which consists mainly of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, with neighbouring countries Kenya, Sudan and Uganda also involved in what is said to be the worst famine in 60 years due to a severe drought in the area that, according to the World Food Programme, threatens the livelihood of 13.3 million people. The United Nations having, in July, for the first time in nearly 30 years officially used the word ‘famine’, pertaining to the situation in southern Somalia.

As far as proceeds from the match are concerned, which had ticket prices ranging between eight and twenty euros, two thirds of it will go towards the UN's attempt to address the ongoing food crisis, while Hamburg themselves will donate the rest to, and I quote: ‘diverse community development projects focused on sports, youth, education and protection of the environment, and corporate social responsibility among its sponsors and partners.’ Which is otherwise known as, with it being the club’s initiative, ‘Der Hamburger Weg’ or ‘The Hamburg Way’.

Ronaldo himself commenting : “I am proud of the success of the Match Against Poverty and very honoured that clubs such as HSV have offered to host the event.” While Zidane said: “Through the 2011 edition in Hamburg we hope we will be able to raise both awareness and funds for the people in need in the Horn of Africa. And, while I obviously hope to win, the Match Against Poverty is much more than a game: it is part of the global fight against poverty.”

Ronaldo and Zidane both being Goodwill Ambassadors for the United Nations Development Programme, the duo being just two of many sportsmen and women involved with the project, with for instance Emmanuel Adebayor and Didier Drogba two recent examples. Their fame, according to the UNDP website: ‘helping to amplify the urgent and universal message of human development and international cooperation, helping to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. ‘

Drogba being just one of a massive bundle of big names in the Ronaldo, Zidane and Friends squad, with the rest of it consisting of Ronaldo and Zidane themselves, plus Dida, Paulo André, Serginho, Jens Lehmann, Lucas Radebe, Fernando Hierro, Gheorghe Popescu, Gheorghe Hagi, Luís Figo, Maniche, Fernando Couto, Christian Karembeu, Claude Makélélé, Robert Pirès, Steve McManaman, Pavel Nedvěd, Fabio Cannavaro, Rabah Madjer, Sami Al-Jaber and Dwight Yorke.

That side being coached by the veteran pair of Marcello Lippi and Bora Milutinović, while the HSV All-Stars team will be managed by Thorsten Fink, the current boss of Hamburg themselves. That All-Stars team consisting of a few familiar names to British football fans, namely Jorg Albertz, Stefan Schnoor and Tony Yeboah who have plied their trade in Britain, while the game itself will be refereed by one of the most famous whistlers of all time, in now 51-year old Italian Pierluigi Collina.

Last year meanwhile the game was played in Piraeus at the Karaiskakis Stadium, the home ground of Olympiacos, with the funds, partly from a crowd of around 33,000 spectators, aiding the near 25 million people affected by the Haiti earthquake in January and the Pakistan floods that started in July 2010. Some $170,000 supporting the reconstruction of sports centres in the Haitian cities of Port-au-Prince and Leogane, while an equal amount went to help up to 1,200 women-headed households of rural Muzafargarh in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

The final official word on this year’s game though going to UEFA President Michel Platini as he commented: “I am a firm believer that football can play a key role in highlighting problems in society and helping to find solutions.” Although there is of course the lingering thought to those quotes that those at UEFA might want to start things off themselves by highlighting the inequalities in football and providing solutions to those, but that might be too much to ask.