DALLAS — FC Barcelona’s jersey may have “Qatar Foundation” splashed across the front these days but the UNICEF logo that formerly occupied the prime spot on the club’s kit in recent years has instead become ingrained in the fabric of the club.
“Of all the things Barça does, the relationship with UNICEF is one of the most important,” said Ramon Pont, vice president of FC Barcelona and its foundation at a UNICEF event held at a local Dallas YMCA on Friday afternoon. “We consider ourselves more than a team … and Barça wants to continue with UNICEF because we are friends and because we have the same values.”
Beyond helping to raise funds and providing jersey visibility, it’s the involvement of Barcelona’s players that has taken the relationship with UNICEF a step further.
Lawrence Picard, deputy director of operations at UNICEF, pointed out how forwards David Villa and Lionel Messi have gone out of their way to use their Facebook pages to create awareness around the work being done to help the Horn of Africa, a region plagued by a drought that has resulted in more than half a million undernourished children at risk of imminent death.
“They’ve been of tremendous help and assistance as we fight this tremendously difficult battle,” Picard said of Messi and Villa. “We will take the next step to improve lives of vulnerable children around the world and work to utilize the social assets of the club to engage many more people in support of a global movement for education and sport that will deliver tangible and measurable results for children.”
It’s the same kind of tangible and measurable results achieved on the field of play by midfielder Thiago Alcántara and Villa, two players who engaged more than 25 children in a Q&A session on Friday.
Of the responses provided by the stars on the afternoon, Villa confessed the significance of scoring the third and final goal of his team’s 3-1 win against Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28. It came on a curling shot that found the top right corner of the net to seal the result.
“The goal was tough [to score] and it’s one I’m proud of,” Villa said. “It’s the most important goal of my entire career. You can imagine how I felt with the history of Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. It made it 3-1 and it extended our lead and got us that much closer to the Champions League [victory].”
Thiago, meanwhile, showed off his personality just hours after being named to Vicente del Bosque’s 22-man Spain squad to face Italy on August 10. The midfielder, who joined Barcelona’s youth academy at the age of 15, is the revelation of the preseason with four goals and inspired creative play.
In response to one kid’s request for an autograph from both players as part of the Q&A, the 20-year-old Thiago took hold of the microphone: “All the other kids will get one except you.”
Of course, he was only kidding. For Barcelona it's always about the kids.