23rd July 2016 - Manchester United and Unicef have joined forces during the club’s pre-season tour to champion the rights of underprivileged young people through a series of cultural activities. 

United legends Bryan Robson and Ji-sung Park, plus players Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park and Paddy McNair, also took part in a Q&A session, which was broadcast live on Chinese social media platform, Sina Weibo.

Taking time out from the club’s pre-season tour of China, Robson, Park and the first-teamers spent time with six boys and girls from rural Gansu and Henan provinces, and encouraged them to talk about what matters in their lives.

The young people are benefiting from a life skills education programme supported by Unicef in collaboration with the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).

During the one hour interaction, the United players took part in the traditional Chinese game of shuttlecock kicking, before the teenagers shared stories of their experiences with the programme, for example overcoming problems at school and in their personal lives.  The players gave advice on how to cope with setbacks and pressure, as well as how to be a good team player and lead a healthy lifestyle. 

“The players and I were honoured to be here today and to be a part of this incredible partnership. I’ve witnessed first-hand the great work that Unicef does to protect vulnerable children, and am proud that the club is so supportive,” said former United and England captain Bryan Robson. “Adolescence is a crucial stage of life. It’s great to hear these young people share their stories and to give them advice on how they can cope with some of the challenges they might face.”

The players hope that their influence across the huge Manchester United fan base in China will help champion the rights of marginalised adolescents, and encourage young people to be the drivers of change. 

Adolescence is often a challenging time for young people; an exciting but often uncertain transition from dependency to independence, sometimes leading to confusion, pressure and even depression. 

“Adolescence is a valuable period of childhood in its own right, but it is also a critical period of transition and opportunity for improving life chances,” said Rana Flowers, Unicef Representative to China. “By providing positive and supportive opportunities that enrich the developmental environment during adolescence, it is possible to overcome some of the consequences of early childhood harm and build resilience to mitigate future harm. With their passion, resilience and commitment, players from Manchester United can be positive role models for young people, inspiring them to strive for success.”

The programme opened another door in my life,” said Zhang Bin, a 16-year-old boy from Gansu who migrated to work in the provincial capital after dropping out of school. “I took part in the training programme two years ago and it gave me the first-ever chance to live in a city, learn computer skills, access the Internet and visit a museum.”

The United for Unicef partnership is now in its 17th year and has raised over £4m, helping Unicef to change the lives of millions of vulnerable children worldwide.  It is the longest running partnership of its kind between a sporting organisation and a global children's organisation.


Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

United for Unicef

Manchester United was the first football club to take the initiative in developing an active partnership between Unicef and the world of football. United for Unicef was launched in 1999 and is the longest running collaboration between a Premiership football club and a global charity. To date, the club has raised over £3.4 million helping over 3.4 million children worldwide. Manchester United was one of the first corporate partners to sign up to support Unicef’s five year global children and AIDS campaign, Unite for Children Unite against AIDS.

Manchester United’s partnership with Unicef under the ‘United for Unicef’ brand is managed by Manchester United Foundation. 

Unicef and CAST

Between 2011-2015, Unicef and CAST provided life skills training to out-of-school adolescents and students at vocational schools in 20 counties in 11 provinces. The courses included Career Guidance and Development, Interpersonal Skills and Communication, Independence and Self-Management, Life Skills for Girls, Financial Education and Social Emotional Learning, as well as Information Technology. Around 30,000 adolescents participated in the programme and more than 1,000 teachers received relevant training.

Although China has made great strides in achieving universal compulsory education, the Ministry of Education data showed transition rate from primary school to junior secondary school had dropped since 2008, and the transition rates from junior secondary school to senior secondary school and onward were much lower.  Region wise, children in the underdeveloped central and western China are more likely to be out of school. In the context of China’s urbanization, more than 17 million young people aged 12-17 are estimated to be migrants in cities, while 18 million from the same age group are left behind in the rural areas. Among them, a few million dropped out of school and some became new-generation migrant workers, often with insufficient knowledge or skills.