Putting a smile back on the faces of disadvantaged children

The emotion of football is universal. The UEFA Foundation for Children is set to fulfil the lifelong dreams of several children who have serious illnesses or disabilities or are suffering the effects of major accidents by giving them the chance to watch Real Madrid CF take on Club Atlético de Madrid in the 2016 UEFA Champions League final in Milan tomorrow night.

In cooperation with charitable associations such as Étoile filante/Sternschnuppe, Rêves and Make-A-Wish, the foundation has invited four children and their families to come and experience this great annual festival of football. This rare opportunity to share in the intense joy and emotion of such a unique and momentous event will be a far cry from their everyday lives and the medical challenges they face on a daily basis.

Joseph Fontanarosa, head of communication for the Moselle branch of Rêves commented: “Today, I’m here with a boy named Teoman. He’s 15 and seriously ill. It’s really special to be able to bring him here because he absolutely loves football. I see his eyes light up more every minute with all that he is seeing and experiencing. Today he’s just a really happy child and it’s this weekend that will give him the strength to keep up the fight when he returns home.”

Mazyar Taennler, from the Zurich-based Étoile filante/Sternschnuppe, said: “I’m here today with two families and two children, Livio and Luka. Both of them have had quite a hard time, one since birth and the other as of last year. Both of them love football, so it’s very special for them to be here, having this experience and seeing how things work behind the scenes. This is a very special weekend for the children, their families, and me. We‘re all football fanatics! They are really looking forward to the final tomorrow. And to be greeted as special guests, to not have to wait in line, and to be able to take all the pictures they want, that makes the experience more special still.”

The UEFA Foundation for Children has also invited 13 children from the organisation Air Pur & Soleil (plus chaperones) to attend the match. This child welfare organisation based in Haute-Savoie takes care of children facing crises of various kinds, typically by giving them the opportunity to spend some time away from their family, school and/or institutional environment.

All of these children are enjoying an exclusive two-day programme devised specially for them, thanks to the support of a number of volunteers from UEFA.

Today, they spent some of the afternoon at the UEFA Champions Festival in the heart of Milan, having their photo taken with the trophy, visiting the Champions Gallery, watching the all-star match and meeting some of the stars in question. They then went to San Siro to watch the two teams’ official pre-match training sessions.

When they return to San Siro tomorrow night to watch the UEFA Champions League final, thereby fulfilling a lifelong ambition, it is bound to be a highly emotional occasion.