The Grassroot Soccer Fundraising Gala lured several high-profile names in sports like David Beckham, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, and Sir Alex Ferguson for World AIDS Day.
The fundraising event was held at London’s One Marylebone venue on Tuesday night with an aim to raise money for Grassroot Soccer. Grassroot Soccer is a charity organisation that aims to tackle the threat of AIDS worldwide.
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs is currently an ambassador for Grassroot Soccer.
There was a live auction for the same with prizes ranging from a one-to-one tennis session with two-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, a lunch date with Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis and an opportunity to play an eight-a-side football match with Pires and Ljungberg.
The money raised from the auction will be spent on a range of unique football-based health education programmes in southern Africa, a part of the world severely affected by AIDS.
According to Grassroot Soccer’s website, around 23.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are HIV positive, 69 per cent of the total infected population worldwide.
About the campaign, Gunners legend Pires said: “Grassroot Soccer uses the language and beauty of the game to break down barriers, build trust, and educate young people to adopt healthy behaviours. Soccer becomes part of the solution.”
Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy midfielder Beckham said on his arrival: “I’m really excited about tonight.”
Other Grassroot Soccer ambassadors include USA international centre half Oguchi Onyewu.
Onyewu, who previously played for Standard Liège, Newcastle United, Sporting Lisbon, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, is now a free agent after his release from The Valley in May.
Grassroot Soccer currently reaches 1.3m young people in 50 countries with adolescent-friendly health and sex education services. It uses a combination of education and football to empower youngsters and help them in overcoming one of the greatest health challenges affecting the continent.
The Grassroot Soccer’s vision is to bring smile to children’s faces in the most adverse of conditions. It believes that, “In most places simply arriving at a field with a soccer ball will win you instant friendships and immediate access into a local community. Soccer teams and leagues are ubiquitous structures in even the most impoverished areas.”
“By working within this existing structure and by training role models – pro players, coaches and youth players themselves – to get the message out about healthy behavior and the risks of HIV, we have shown that we can break stigmas, dramatically increase awareness, change behaviors, and turn the tide against HIV.”