By Tibebeselassie Tigabu and Dereje Tegenaw
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Former captain of the Ethiopian National Football Team Degu Debebe, is to represent Ethiopia to play for peace with renowned football stars like Lionel Messi, Neymar and retired legends Zinedine Zidane, and Diego Maradona on September 1 in Rome, Italy at the Olympic Stadium.
This game, entitled Match for Peace, was initiated by the Catholic Church Pope Francis and will be hosted by Pupi foundation, a Buenos Aires-based charity founded by Argentinian soccer player Javier Zanetti and the Pontifical Academy for Social Science.
According to the Ethiopian Football Federation‘s public relations head, Wondimkun Alayu, the invitation was sent to countries all over the world and the federation chose Degu Debebe. Degu, who was captain of the Waliys for the past two years, has contributed much to Ethiopia to qualify for the African Cup of Nations after 31 years.
Degu, who was excited about the event, expressed to The Reporter his delight to be a part of this event and how his appreciation goes to the Ethiopian Football Federation. Degu said the future is promising for the upcoming young ones.
“This shows if the young ones work hard there will be opportunities better than this,” Degu said.
Focusing on trying to promote peace, this match focuses on the crisis in the Gaza strip, which has caused countless innocent civilians to die. So far the crisis has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
After the Pope’s invitation, FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona quickly responded. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency report, the Pope invited his two fellow countrymen “to play for the peace between Israel and Palestine.”
This inter-religious match for peace will also involve Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti, Gianluigi Buffon and all religious followers are invited to be a part of that.
Apart from that, the participation of Israeli national team star and former Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun did not please some players.
Even though this match is being welcomed by many, Egyptian footballer Mohammed Aboutrika has refused to be a part of it. The player, who has stood against Israel in the past, wore a shirt that read “Sympathize with Gaza.”
Aboutrika in his tweet said: “This is a photo for the match invitation which I turned down because of the Zionist state. Pardon us, we are raising a new generation.”
The funds raised during this occasion will go to Scholars Ocurrentes; an organization sponsored by the pope to better education standards across the world and Pupi Foundation, which works on family values and children’s rights.
In May, Pope Francis hosted the then Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas for a prayer summit at the Vatican.
Source: The Reporter