On May 31st, football fever gripped the United Nations Headquarters as Bundesliga Legends teamed up with Permanent Representatives to play in a tournament on the North Lawn ahead of the 2018 World Cup. The four teams were comprised of ambassadors from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe alongside former star athletes such as the two World Champions Lothar Matthäus (Germany) and Paulo Sergio (Brazil) as well as Jörg Albertz (Germany), Wynton Rufer (New Zealand), Bum-Kun Cha (South Korea) and Pavel Pardo (Mexico). The African team, supported by Jörg Albertz, took home the gold medal.
The unifying power of football
Mirroring the United Nations itself, the event keenly demonstrated how football unifies people and cultures from around the globe. The integrative effect of sports was also the focus of the opening panel discussion between Lothar Matthäus, Pavel Pardo, the first-ever female Bundesliga referee Bibiana Steinhaus, UN Ambassadors and high-ranking representatives of the UN.
Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s Permanent Representative at the UN, pointed out the similarities between the values of the UN and football: "Football is a phenomenon that overcomes language barriers and cultural divides, and brings people together all over the world. Peaceful coexistence, regardless of a person's origin or social status, is ultimately one of the goals for which the United Nations was founded over 70 years ago. Many of my 192 colleagues here in New York share the same passion for that round leather ball, no matter what country they represent at the UN."