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Football Is More Than Just a Game - Soccer Aid Can Help Change Children's Lives

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This is set to be a blockbuster summer for football, with the upcoming World Cup causing excitement and anticipation all over the world. For the players involved, and the travelling fans, it's likely to be a life-changing experience. Before a ball is kicked in Brazil, however, there is another life-changing match taking place.

Soccer Aid, football's biggest charity match, returns for the fifth time on Sunday 8 June. The match will see two star-studded squads, England and the Rest of the World, compete at Old Trafford all in aid of UNICEF, the world's leading children's organisation which works to help every child reach their full potential. This will be the third time I take part in Soccer Aid and having been on the losing side last time out it's fair to say there are some scores to settle and plenty of pride at stake. As ever there is a great line up for both teams, with the likes of Matt Smith and John Bishop competing for England and James McAvoy and Jeremy Renner playing alongside me for the Rest of the World.

As a football-obsessed young boy growing up in South Wales I never thought I would have the chance to play at Old Trafford in front of more than 60,000 people. If you'd told me I'd be captaining a team filled with a host of football legends and Hollywood stars I would have laughed. Playing in Soccer Aid sometimes does feel like a bit of a dream - I know the other guys involved also treasure this unique experience. But when I lead the Rest of the World team out on 8 June, it won't just be football on my mind; because there's a bigger reason why we come together every two years for this extraordinary football match.

Soccer Aid has been a regular fixture since 2006 when Robbie Williams sought to combine two of his passions - football and his role as UNICEF UK Ambassador - to initiate a charity football match with the aim of raising vital funds for the world's most vulnerable children. Since then, Soccer Aid has raised more than £12 million for UNICEF's life-saving work with children across the globe.

This year, the UK government will match your donations to Soccer Aid pound for pound, which means that UNICEF will be able to help save even more children's lives.

The difference that this money makes is colossal. Last year I was able to travel with UNICEF to Chad, in Central Africa to see how the money raised by you, the British public, was being spent. I visited UNICEF-supported hospitals and health-centres, met malnourished children and saw the children of traditional nomad communities being vaccinated. A child being examined and given medicine which will ultimately make him better seems like such a simple thing, but being there watching a child receive life-saving medical care really touched me.

A visit to a health centre in Mongo, an eight hour drive from the capital, was punctuated by dancing, football and singing. At one point I was asked if I could sing a song. Happy to oblige I proudly belted out the Welsh National Anthem, followed by a medley of Beatles classics - by the time I reached 'All you need is Love' everyone was joining in. That moment will stay with me forever, it made me realise how much we all share in common no matter where we live in the world. It will be at the front of my mind when I take to the Old Trafford pitch in few weeks time.

As I write this there are so many children around the world in desperate need of our help; children whose lives have been devastated by conflict, such as in South Sudan the Central African Republic and Syria, and the millions of children whose lives are at risk because they don't have enough food or access to clean water.

It shouldn't be like this, and you can help UNICEF save children's lives right now. By supporting Soccer Aid, you can ensure that UNICEF can continue this life-saving work for vulnerable children, providing food, medicine and clean water. Together, we have the power to change children's lives for the better.

Being able to see first hand the incredible impact of the money raised through Soccer Aid was an honour and a privilege, and it will make it all the more special to lead the team out on the 8th June, knowing that I am playing a part in something that will change so many young lives, for years to come.

Football is something that can bring people together in a way that nothing else can. So before the celebrations kick off in Brazil let's all unite and help raise money for children around the world.

Tickets are on sale for Soccer Aid 2014 (Sunday 8 June at Old Trafford) call 0845 456 2014 or visit www.manutd.com/socceraid

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