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By NBF News
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BAMAKO (AFP) - Retired French football star Zinedine Zidane, a United Nations goodwill ambassador, will visit Mali this week to draw attention to the nation's efforts to fight poverty, the UN said on Monday.

A UN Development Programme (UNDP) statement said Zidane would visit women's and youth empowerment initiatives as well as income generating programmes.

'Today I want to help,' said Zidane. 'Ending poverty takes each and every one of us. I, too, lived in difficult places where we had very little.'

Despite significant advances in poverty reduction in Mali, a largely desert west African nation, challenges remain in the areas of nutrition, youth employment, sustainable development and maternal and child health.

'Zinedine Zidane's visit to Mali is significant to draw attention to what is possible when different actors come together with a common goal,' said Maurice Dewulf, acting UNDP Resident Representative in Bamako.

'It's a global message of encouragement to all those who struggle daily against poverty.'

Zidane was appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in March 2001.

He and another famous footballer, Ronaldo, launched the annual Match Against Poverty in 2003, which brings together other famous footballers to raise funds for anti-poverty projects worldwide.

Other UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors include Didier Drogba, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.

Zidane retired from professional football in 2006 and is now director of sport for his former team Real Madrid FC. He is a three time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award