Rooney, Radebe, Nistelrooy plus 100 others in 2006
Since our partnership with FIFA began in 1995, many football stars have signed up to support SOS Children by taking on the role of FIFA/SOS Ambassador.
Many of these international ambassadors play for UK clubs; here are a few you may have heard of...
Ukraine: Andriy Shevchenko
European Footballer of the Year in 2004, Andriy Shevchenko is not only one of the biggest names in world football but also a firm supporter of SOS Children's Villages. Early in 2006, the Chelsea striker joined the SOS team, becoming FIFA/SOS Ambassador for Ukraine.
As part of the "6 villages for 2006" campaign with FIFA, the first ever SOS Children's Village is currently being built in Brovary, near the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Read about Shevchenko's support for SOS Children in his interview early in 2006.
Italy: Fabio Cannavaro
Cannavaro, the victorious Italian capatain at the 2006 World Cup, pledged his support for SOS Children and "6 villages for 2006", its joint World Cup campaign with FIFA campaign in early 2006. It was during the live broadcast of the Italian Football Oscar Awards, that Cannavaro, along with former top referee Pierluigi Collina, was presented with his Ambassador's certificate.
Cannavaro, who this summer moved to Spanish giants Real Madrid, has joined Italian team mates Christian Vieri and Francesco Totti in the role of FIFA/SOS Ambassador and will be supporting the seven SOS Children's Villages in Italy as well as those further afield.
Former World Cup winning captain of Brazil and now the national side’s manager, Dunga’s name was added to the list of international superstars acting as FIFA/SOS Ambassadors in early 2006. We were lucky to meet Dunga ahead of the 2006 World Cup - read about his thoughts on the tournament and his role as FIFA/SOS Ambassador in his interview.
Also read about Dunga’s visit to the SOS Children’s Village Ammersee in Germany, where he joined up with Mexican legend Hugo Sanchez for “6 villages for 2006”, SOS Children’s World Cup campaign.
South Africa: Lucas Radebe
Lucas Radebe, former Leeds United star and captain of the South African national team, "Bafana Bafana", has for over six years been one of the most committed and popular of the FIFA/SOS Ambassadors, including making SOS a benficiary of his own benefit match earlier this year. Radebe, who received the prestigious "FIFA Fair Play Award" in 2001 and who donated the prize money as well as 3,000 books collected by Leeds United to SOS Children's Villages South Africa, makes regular visits to the South African SOS Children's Villages and is patron of the new village being built in Rustenburg as part of the "6 villages for 2006" campaign. The small inhabitants of the villages are among his most loyal and enthusiastic fans. Whether in Pietermaritzburg, Ennerdale, Mamelodi or Capetown, personal football instruction from Lucas Radebe count among the real highlights for the children.
The Netherlands: Ruud van Nistelrooy
On 1 September 2001 Ruud van Nistelrooy was officially appointed "FIFA for SOS Children's Villages" Ambassador in The Netherlands. The Real Madrid and Dutch international striker has taken on the task of bringing the work of SOS Children closer to the world of football. The football star first came into contact with the charity back in 1998, when he visited SOS Children's Village Bucharest in Romania with his 'Jong-Oranje' team-mates and experienced life in an SOS Children's Village first hand.
"I was really impressed by all the happy children playing. In spite of their difficult pasts, the children were very positive," said van Nistelrooy, and when the Dutch SOS Children's Village Association asked whether he would like to take on the role of an ambassador, the star player didn't need long to think about it: "Although I have a very busy life, I love to make an exception for SOS Children"
Belarus: Alexandr Hleb
Alexandr Hleb, the Arsenal star and Belarus International, was made "FIFA for SOS Children's Villages" Ambassador for Belarus in 2003. Hleb was following in the footsteps of his former Stuttgart team-mate and FIFA/SOS Ambassador for Bulgaria Krassimir Balakov.
"I didn't know anything about SOS Children, but Balakov told me everything about the organisation. Even though I'm still pretty young myself, I've always wanted to help children. It was a very emotional moment when they asked me whether I wanted to take on the role of ambassador" says Hleb.
Nigeria: Jay Jay Okocha
In the summer of 2004, Jay Jay Okocha, one of Africa's finest footballers joined the illustrious list of FIFA/SOS Ambassadors when signed up for the good cause. Okocha has often been described as one of Africa's most gifted and beloved players ever, gaining 74 caps for Nigeria and leading the team to victory in the 1994 African Cup of Nations.
The former Bolton Wanderers star, together with his family, delighted children at the SOS Children's Village in Isolo, in his native Nigeria, when he visited in 2004. Jay Jay also lent his support for "6 villages for 2006", which will see a third SOS Children's Village built near Abuja, Nigeria.
France: Robert Pires
Frenchman Robert Pires, a 1998 World Cup champion and 2000 European Cup winner, has been a "FIFA for SOS Children's Villages" Ambassador since 1998.
Despite being out of the country, playing recently for Arsenal and now Villareal in Spain, Pires uses every opportunity to visit an SOS Children's Village or invite the children to spend a day of games and fun. He also donated profits from a video about his career to SOS Children's Villages.
Robert also gave his wholehearted support to the "6 villages for 2006" campaign, appearing in a promotional video for SOS Children in France.
Ecuador: Ulises de la Cruz
Ulises de la Cruz has been helping disadvantaged children in his hometown of Piquiucho for many years. In spring 2006, the Ecuadorian international and Reading defender agreed to become a FIFA/SOS Ambassador and support SOS Children’s work around the world.
Ulises supported us here in the UK by helping to launch our Keepy Uppy Challenge, as part of the "6 villages for 2006" World Cup campaign.
You can find out more about Ulises’ work and support for SOS Children in an interview with the Ecuadorian hero.