Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Soccer Champs!

From: MTG United for Peace: A Charity for Children

Excited young players were eager to see just how far their football talents could take their teams on 6-8 September when MTG United for Peace Cup was held in Sofia. The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and international football stars from all over Europe had also arrived at the national stadium “Vasil Levski” to entertain the young football players and the crowd in a charity match.

Boys’ teams, all from underprivileged backgrounds, had travelled from all over the country to participate in the football tournament. For a lot of the 12-14-year old players this was their first visit to the country’s capital and their excitement really filled the air. The prospect of winning and getting on a plane with their team mates to the international final in Oslo was in the back of every player’s mind.

A lot of fun things happened surrounding the matches to make the tournament something to cherish. Every player received a goody bag from beauty product makers Refan while “X-Factor” stars Maria Ilieva and Poly Genova, along with the children's group “Bon Bon”, kept the spirits of the young footballers up.

Close to 7,000 people came to take part in the football fun at the charity match. The Bulgarian All Star team, with renowned national stars like Hristo Stoichkov, Lyuboslav Penev and Yordan Lechkov, was led by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. They faced MTG CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht’s team of European football legends Patrik Andersson, Stefan Schwarz, Erland Johnsen and Jan Age Fjortoft (who’s also the chairman of MTG United for Peace) to name but a few.

No one in the audience was disappointed as the exciting match got under way. It was a fairly even game, where Bulgaria had the most opportunities. And even though the football players were engaged in friendly banter before and after the game, when they were out on the pitch, they all took it seriously:

“I think their competitive instincts took over during the game and emotions ran a bit high at times,” said central defender and peace ambassador Erland Johnsen after the match. “One red card was even given out, and I got a yellow one! It also slightly embarrassing that we didn’t manage to score any goals,” Johnsen laughed.

The Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov did however score, from a penalty in the 50th minute, which resulted in a 1-0 victory for the home team.

The Prime Minister, a keen football player and friend to a lot of the Bulgarian players, was not difficult to attract for the event: “I’m always ready to take part in initiatives such as MTG United for Peace, when the focus is on children,” Boyko Borissov said. After the match the children went onto the football pitch to meet up with their idols and get their autographs.

When the thrilling children’s tournament drew to an end, the team “Milosardie” from Lom on the river Danube had fought their way to become Bulgarian champions. The biggest aspiration for the entire event was for the children to make new friends and realise that we’re all the same, no matter who we are or where we’re from. Or, as former football pro and peace ambassador Johnsen so nicely put it:

“I think it’s great that the country’s Prime Minister took part in the game. It shows that even a person in a position of power like him is also human, like the rest of us. It shows a big openness to other people, which is what being a peace ambassador for MTG United for Peace is all about.”

The entrance fees from the big crowd will be used for sports scholarships for children deprived of parental care. The money generated from last year’s event has so far given out 14 sports scholarships for children living in caretaking institutions. The next 26 scholarships will be handed out next month.