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Berne, Switzerland, 2 June 2010.
A few days before the World Cup gets underway in South Africa, 90 excited fans got a chance to experience African football. INTERSPORT and PUMA invited competition winners to the "Africa Unity Experience" in Paris, where they experienced two truly unforgettable days. They attended an exhibition match involving the national teams from Ghana, Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire, danced to African music and trained alongside the African football stars.
The exhibition match: stars play for a good cause
On 28 May, players from the national teams of Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire formed mixed teams and battled it out for charity to demonstrate their support for the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. The proceeds from the match went to PUMA’s "Play for Life" campaign, which in partnership with the United Nations Environmental Programme, is raising money for biodiversity causes in Africa. The INTERSPORT winners joined many football stars in the stand while watching world class footballers such as Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboué, Samuel Eto’o, Stephen Appiah and John Mensah on the pitch. In front of a crowd of around 6000, the CEO of INTERSPORT International, Franz Julen, and the CEO of PUMA, Jochen Zeitz, handed over three footballs to representatives from Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire as a symbolic gesture, to show that INTERSPORT is donating 10,000 balls to Africa. These balls will be distributed to more than 100 social, educational and non-governmental organisations within Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. This initiative will help each federation in their ambition to give more children the opportunity to play the game.
Franz Julen said
"We are thrilled to provide this football equipment to such worthwhile football programmes in Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Interest in football amongst children in Western Africa has been rapidly growing, and with the sufficient facilities and equipment, this enthusiasm will continue to develop. We wholeheartedly support grass roots football schemes within these countries and are delighted to donate these balls to their programme."
Concert: artists from Africa and the rest of the world
In the evening, the winners were invited to an exclusive concert in Paris' "La Cigale" theatre. Hollywood star Djimon Hounsou hosted the evening which included performances by numerous African artists from the "Africa Express" group set up by Damon Albarn from Blur and the Gorillaz. Artists from Africa took the stage alongside musicians and singers from Europe and the US to stir up the crowd with African rhythms.
"We had a great time – fantastic music and amazing people,"
said Aurelie Mahe, the French winner. Later on in the evening the stars from the national teams went on stage and showed that their skills aren't just confined to the football pitch.
Football camp: training with national players
On 29 May, the football fans saw their dreams come true as they trained with the stars. Split into eight teams, the winners worked their way around different tasks such as football golf, the eleven metre shoot-out and dribbling. Representatives from the Cameroon and Ghana national teams were on hand to offer advice and show off a few tricks. The day was a real highlight for Thomas Kristensen from Denmark:
"It was amazing to train with professional African footballers, I'll treasure this for a long time to come."
The stars and fans also took part in a gigantic tabletop football game.
An unforgettable trip to Paris
The winners rounded off their trip to Paris with an African party. A drummer, a DJ and the winners from all 13 countries celebrated the end of the Africa Unity Experience. During the party, the three teams with the highest points from the training session were awarded prizes by the African football legends Roger Milla and Abebi Pele.
On Sunday, 30 May, the winners packed away countless autographs and photos before taking their unforgettable experiences back home with them.
"My time in Paris has opened my eyes to the African teams. I'm now looking forward to the World Cup even more,"
explained Andreas Wremerth from Sweden. The World Cup is about to get underway and there are now 90 more fans rooting for Africa.