‘Ciao Capitano’ – Michael Ballack’s fond farewell to football

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‘Ciao Capitano’ – Michael Ballack’s fond farewell to football

06 June 2013

World class footballer and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Michael Ballack played his official farewell game at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Germany on 5 June.
Credit: EiB, Andreas Schulz 2013

An era in football has drawn to a close as world class footballer and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Michael Ballack played his official farewell game at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Germany on 5 June. The charity event, which drew a crowd of more than 45 000 fans, was Michael Ballack’s way of thanking his devoted fans for their support throughout his career.

The proceeds of the charity game will be donated to football youth work as well HIV awareness and prevention work. Michael Ballack also acknowledged the natural flood disaster in his home region and spontaneously donated 100 000 euros to help support the re-construction.

The celebrated former German captain was joined by a host of world class stars as he pitched his ‘Michael and Friends’ team against a squad of top international players and stars. Competitors included Didier Drogba as well as Michael Essien and Andrij Schewtschenko and former Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher. The teams were coached by Jose Mourinho and Rudi Voeller.

Michael is a captivating football player—and an inspirational leader for millions of young people around the world. Tonight is not all about Ciao Capitano–it’s about looking to the future as his journey continues with UNAIDS. His dedicated support will help us reach our goal of getting to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

A mix of influential leaders from the worlds of sport, entertainment, politics and the arts also attended the match to pay tribute to Michael Ballack’s glittering career in football.  Executive Director of UNAIDS and avid football fan Michel Sidibé took the opportunity to congratulate Mr Ballack on both his sterling achievements on the field and his dedication to the growing global efforts to get to an AIDS-free generation.  He said, “Michael is a captivating football player—and an inspirational leader for millions of young people around the world. Tonight is not all about Ciao Capitano–it’s about looking to the future as his journey continues with UNAIDS. His dedicated support will help us reach our goal of getting to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

Michael Ballack, known for his leadership on and off the pitch, spoke emotionally to his fans, “You are the ones that make football a great game and I am forever grateful for having had the amazing privilege of sharing my career and love of the game with you."

For the past 7 years Michael Ballack has used his international reputation to convey important HIV prevention messages, empowering young people and helping save lives. He recently travelled to South Africa with the Executive Director of UNAIDS to learn more about the epidemic, visiting local projects and meeting people living with and affected by HIV.  Michael Ballack will continue his work with UNAIDS and is planning to undertake more field missions in near future.