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Sierra Leone: International football referees promote campaign to protect child victims of war

19-03-2004 News Release 04/23

GENEVA (ICRC) – Three renowned UEFA EURO 2004TM football referees travelled to Sierra Leone this week as ambassadors for the Protect Children in War campaign, a joint effort by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


Anders Frisk, Marcus Merk and Lubos Michel enjoy a performance by children staying temporarily at the ICRC Transit Centre in Kenema which is run by the Sierra Leone Red Cross©UEFA/Fabio Bozzani 

The campaign is aimed at drawing attention to the specific problems faced by children in armed conflicts and promoting the laws that protect them. The visit is one in a series of events leading up to the UEFA EURO 2004TM football championship in Portugal this summer.

During their three-day visit, Anders Frisk from Sweden, Markus Merk from Germany and Lubos Michel from Slovakia met with child victims of war and with people and organizations committed to protecting them and assisting them on the path to recovery. The visit helped the referees to understand the difficulties faced by children in a country that is emerging from 11 years of civil war and still suffering the consequences of past and present conflicts in neighbouring countries.

While in Sierra Leone, the re ferees witnessed two young Sierra Leonean children being reunited with their father, whom they had not seen for four years. Many people in Liberia, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone were separated from their families as a result of civil war or internal unrest. In 2003 the ICRC transported over 550 unaccompanied minors and vulnerable adults across national borders in the region so that they could be reunited with their families in their home countries or in countries in which their families had sought refuge.

Children who have been through the trauma of an armed conflict, either as soldiers or as victims of violence, also require material and psychological support. The referees visited a centre set up by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to help former child soldiers and other child victims of the civil war rebuild their lives.

A highlight of the visit was the day spent in the refugee camps in Gerihun and Jembe, where the UEFA ambassadors, together with the Sierra Leonean referee Denis Sorie, refereed a football match between the youth teams of the two camps. In Freetown, the referees also met representatives of the Sierra Leone Football Association, the Sierra Leone Referees’ Association and the Ministers of Sports and Social Welfare.

Read also the BBC Sport article on their trip.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Sophie Romanens, ICRC Freetown, tel.: ++ 232 22 233 376 / 386, mobile: ++232 76 715 746  

 Ian Piper, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++41 22 730 2063 or ++41 79 217 3216  

 Thomas Giordano, UEFA Media Services, tel.: ++41 22 99 44 559