By United Nations

24 January - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today appointed Spanish football goalkeeper Iker Casillas as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a focus on promoting poverty reduction, education and health, and issues affecting young people in developing countries.

“While my job on the pitch is to prevent goals, my job at UNDP will be to help score them,” Mr. Casillas said at his appointment in Geneva, Switzerland. “Bringing attention to the poor conditions people are enduring around the world is essential to motivate action on the world's pledges to improve their lives.”

The MDGs are a set of eight globally agreed targets that seek to halve world poverty by 2015 by combating hunger, disease, illiteracy, environment degradation and discrimination against women. Mr. Casillas has a history of helping those in need – including the organizing of events such as football charity matches and raising awareness of the needs of children living in poverty in Peru.

“UNDP works with people and their governments around the world to end poverty with solutions that will last,” Mr. Casillas said. “Only with that kind of team approach can we win the battle against poverty, and I am proud to add my personal commitment to this work.”

Mr. Casillas plays for the Spanish club Real Madrid and serves as captain for both the Spanish national team and Real Madrid. As captain of the national side, he led a young Spanish team to its first European Championship in 44 years. In 2010, he led Spain to their first ever FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where he also won the Golden Glove Award for the tournament's best goalkeeper.

“We are thrilled to have Iker Casillas working with us to help countries reach the MDGs and defeat poverty,” said the UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan, after presenting Mr. Casillas with his credentials in Geneva.

“Iker is not only a role model for young people across the globe, but also a very committed partner in the need to raise awareness and create real opportunities to improve the lives of the most vulnerable,” she added.

Mr. Casillas joins eight other UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors – footballers Ronaldo de Lima, Zinedine Zidane, Didier Drogba and the world's number one female football player, Marta Vieira da Silva; tennis player Maria Sharapova; Spanish performer Antonio Banderas; Japanese actress Misako Konno; and Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway. The Ambassadors articulate the UNDP development philosophy and help motivate people to improve their own lives and those of their fellow citizens.

Soon after receiving his credentials, Mr. Casillas' first task as Goodwill Ambassador was to launch – along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke – a brand new comic book entitled “Score the Goals: Teaming Up to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals” in which he features, along with nine other football players.

“I am very honoured to be part of this comic book,” he said, at the launch. “It is a fantastic fun way to raise awareness and to educate children around the world about the Millennium Development Goals, and about important life values such as tolerance, respect and team spirit. As it says in the comic book: Together we can make it happen!”

The 32-page educational comic book features ten football Goodwill Ambassadors – Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Baggio, Michael Ballack, Iker Casillas, Didier Drogba, Luis Figo, Raúl, Ronaldo, Patrick Vieira, and Zinédine Zidane – who become shipwrecked on an island on their way to playing an “all-star” charity football game in support of the UN. Whilst on the island, the team has to tackle the eight MDGs along their journey towards being rescued.