By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 3 April 2006 – World tennis champion Roger Federer has been appointed UNICEF’s newest international Goodwill Ambassador. UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman welcomed the 24-year-old player today at UNICEF’s headquarters in New York.
Mr. Federer is already considered one of the all-time greats of professional tennis. He is known for a combination of power and finesse in competition, and grace and honour outside the world of sport.
“I may have achieved a lot on the court, but I would also like to try to achieve more now off the court,” he said. “That's one of my big goals in the future, and it's really a privilege for me to continue this great tradition of UNICEF.”
During the formal signing event this morning, Ms. Veneman explained why UNICEF had chosen the number-one tennis player to join the ranks of its Goodwill Ambassadors.
“Talent is not the only thing that sets Roger Federer apart from the rest of the sports world,” she said. “Our interest in appointing him as a Goodwill Ambassador was inspired by his personal story and the commitment he has demonstrated to using his fame to benefit children.”
Passionate advocate for children
The world’s current top-ranked player first teamed up with UNICEF over a year ago when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck. In the disaster’s aftermath, he made a significant personal donation to the relief effort, joined other athletes in raising funds and organized an all-star exhibition tournament with proceeds benefiting UNICEF’s tsunami-relief programmes. The exhibition launched a global partnership between UNICEF and ATP, the governing body of men’s professional tennis, aimed at harnessing the power of tennis to help ensure health, education and protection for every child.
Even before the tsunami efforts, Mr. Federer, a passionate advocate for vulnerable children, had used his high profile to bring the world’s attention to their plight. In 2003, he established the Roger Federer Foundation to fund projects benefiting disadvantaged children with a focus on his mother’s native country, South Africa.
“I believe all children deserve the chance to make something of their lives,” he said. “This is the mission behind my foundation, which provides schooling and meals for poor children and promotes sports for children and youth worldwide.”
Life lessons from sport
The newly minted ambassador has claimed 36 tennis titles to date, including seven coveted Grand Slam crowns. In 2005 he successfully defended his titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, becoming the first man in almost 80 years to win both events in back-to-back years. He believes that sport can be an ideal vehicle to raise awareness about the needs of vulnerable children.
Mr. Federer said he shares UNICEF's belief about sport teaching important life lessons about respect, leadership and cooperation.
“I believe that sport can help overcome injustice and build bridges between cultures and nations,” he explained at his Goodwill Ambassador appointment ceremony today. “As tennis players we have a unique opportunity. It is our responsibility to connect with the real world beyond our sport [and] use our fortune to make a difference in the lives of those who most need it.”
International Year of Sport and Physical Education
Sport was also a highlight today at the United Nations as it marked the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. As spokesperson for the Year, Mr. Federer took part in the event along with Chilean soccer legend Elias Figueroa, New York Marathon winner Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, Paralympics Gold medalist from Australia Katrina Webb and other renowned athletes. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who chaired the event, was presented with a report recognizing the positive values of sport and physical education as an essential component to achieve the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals.
source: for pictures, audio and video please visit UNICEF's website
And thanx Sarfaty for pointing out to this picture.
Roger and Shakira!