Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, one of the world’s greatest footballers, is the newest Laureus Ambassador. And he was in action straight away meeting young people at the Laureus-supported Sport for All project in Katlehong, near Johannesburg.
Ryan played a record 963 times for Manchester United, 64 times for Wales and four times for Team GB during the London Olympics in 2012. During his 23 years at Old Trafford, he won 13 Premier League winner’s medals and was in teams which won the FA Cup four times, the League Cup three times and the Champions League twice.
Ryan, who starts a new career later this year as Assistant Manager of Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal, said: “I am delighted to be named a Laureus Ambassador and would like to thank the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy for inviting me. I have always believed, like Laureus, that sport can change people’s lives, so I am looking forward to doing what I can to help.
“My dream as a youngster was always to play for Manchester United and I was lucky enough to be able to do that. It was great to meet the boys and girls at the Sport for All project and I was able to tell them how important it is for them to have their own dreams and hopes and how they must work hard to achieve them.”
The Laureus Sport For Good Foundation has contributed funding for more than 500 orphans and vulnerable children to attend sports coaching with Sport for All, in poor and underdeveloped township areas in South Africa. Sport for All is currently based in 16 locations around the country. The children can play any sport they want to, including cricket, football, hockey, netball, rugby, volleyball, tennis or even various traditional games. Attending Sport for All coaching gives these children an outlet for their stress and escape from their daily troubles. It allows them to be just a ‘normal child’ for a few hours every day.
Laureus Ambassador Lucas Radebe, the iconic Leeds United and Bafana Bafana captain said: “I had the privilege of playing against Giggs during my time in England. We had some memorable games. He is one of the true all-time greats in the game. The term legend is often used for players – in his case it is absolutely appropriate. I also know as a person, he has a big heart. As a fellow Laureus Ambassador, I welcome him to South Africa on behalf of the organisation.”
Laureus World Sports Academy Member Sir Bobby Charlton, a Director of Manchester United, who has known Ryan Giggs throughout his career at Old Trafford, said: “I first saw Ryan at our Salford training ground. I saw a young boy pick the ball up, dribble past four or five players and then hit a left foot shot towards the goal. I said to Alex [Ferguson] ‘who the hell was that?’ He said: ‘It’s a young lad called Ryan and we think he’s going to be play for us next year’. That was about 25 years ago and I am so proud of what he’s done for Manchester United and for football in general. On behalf of the Laureus Academy I am thrilled that Ryan has agreed to help us with our charity work and I am personally delighted that he is joining us at Laureus.”
At the project visit at Huntersfield Stadium in Katlehong, Ryan joined the young people in various activities which demonstrated the sport and life skills work which they do at Sport for All. He also took time out to talk to the participants and answer their questions.
The Laureus Ambassadors are a select group of current and retired sportsmen and sportswomen, who, along with the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, support the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The Foundation uses sport as the means to combat some of the world’s toughest social challenges facing young people today such as juvenile crime, gangs, gun and knife violence, HIV/AIDS, discrimination, social exclusion, landmines awareness and health problems like obesity.
Since its inception, Laureus has raised over €60 million globally for projects which have helped to improve the lives of millions of young people. It currently supports more than 150 community sports projects in 34 countries, including 15 in South Africa.