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Global Passions for Football and Biodiversity Harnessed for Life

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 7, 2010 (ENS) – The world of international championship football and the world of biodiversity conservation are coming together this year in a partnership announced Wednesday by the German sport lifestyle shoe and clothing company PUMA and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Play for Life partnership will support the UN’s 2010 International Year of Biodiversity by raising awareness about habitat and species conservation among football fans and the general public during worldwide football events. These include the Orange Cup of African Nations in Angola from January 10 to 31 and international friendly games leading up to the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa from June 11.

Football stars Samuel Eto’o, Eyong Enoh, Jean Makoun, Achille Emaa, and Mohammadou Idrissou sign the Africa Unity Kit.. (Photo courtesy PUMA)

This will be the first time that the FIFA World Cup tournament has been hosted by an African nation.

Joined by Cameroon’s national football team, the Indomitable Lions with team captain Samuel Eto’o, at their press conference in Nairobi, PUMA unveiled their key fundraising lever, the new Africa Unity Kit – the world’s first “continental football kit” designed to be worn by the 12 African football national teams that PUMA sponsors.

These include the World Cup qualified teams Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Algeria who are headed to the Africa Cup of Nations with hosts Angola and the national teams of Egypt, Mozambique, Togo and Tunisia, as well as non-qualified federations of Senegal, Morocco and Namibia.

The Africa Unity Kit has been approved by FIFA, which stands for Federation Internationale de Football Association, the international governing association of the sport of football, called soccer in the United States.

PUMA’s profits from sales of the replica fanwear for the Unity Kits will help fund biodiversity programs in Africa, expecially for endangered species on the continent such as lions, elephants, gorillas and the desert fox.

“In 2010, Africa will be at the center of the footballing world,” said PUMA Chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz. “PUMA is creating a unique kit embracing the diversity of African Nations teams while valuing the unity of players and supporters towards a common goal.”

“Biodiversity and therefore valuing and protecting all life on our planet is a huge issue, not only in Africa, but around the world, and we are proud to partner with UNEP to raise both awareness and funds through the sale of our Unity products,” said Zeitz.

“As the whole planet comes together for the World Cup, 2010 marks the year when people around the world will unite to conserve the planet’s almost priceless natural resource – its biodiversity,” Angela Cropper, UNEP’s deputy executive director, told reporters at the press conference.

From left, Jochen Zeitz, Samuel Eto’o and Angela Cropper at the Nairobi news conference announcing the Play for Life campaign. January 6, 2010. (Photo courtesy PUMA)

“The planet’s living organisms are the building blocks of the multi-trillion dollar services – from freshwater to agricultural nutrients – that underpin all life on Earth,” she said. “Bringing together the public’s global passion for football with its global passion for animals, plants and other life forms surely makes a match-winning team.”

The UN’s 2010 International Year of Biodiversity is a global initiative to help raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and to encourage worldwide action to conserve plants and animals and the environments in which they live.

The Play for Life campaign focuses on Africa, a continent that hosts two of the five most important wilderness areas on Earth – the Congo Basin, and the Miombo-Mopane Woodlands and Savannas of Southern Africa.

Nine of the planet’s 35 biodiversity hotspots, the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth, are also in Africa.

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity warns that human activities are creating the greatest extinction crisis since the natural disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Species have been disappearing at up to 1,000 times the natural rate, and this is predicted to rise. Based on current trends, an estimated 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species, including one in eight of the world’s bird species, face extinction.

Indomitable Lions captain Eto’o, flanked by fellow squad members at the unveiling in Nairobi, said, “The new Africa Unity Kit has inspired me and my teammates. Not only are we very proud to wear a shirt that helps bring the continent of Africa together but to do so for such an important cause is truly an honor.”

“Supporting the Africa Unity Kit sends out a positive message for Africa – we are uniting as a continent to help life and the planet,” said Eto’o.

PUMA has other gear designed to generate additional funds to support biodiversity, including PUMA Unity t-shirts and PUMA Lacelets, collectable shoe laces featuring patterns by artist Kehinde Wiley.

Zeitz says these products all bear the PUMA Yellow “life” Label, which gives consumers an easy way to identify products that benefit projects supported by PUMAVision, PUMA’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program.

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