In sub-Saharan Africa, one out of every three children does not have access to primary education, putting their futures at risk. UNICEF's Schools for Africa initiative builds full-service educational facilities for children where they have access to nourishing meals, potable water and health services for a secure and protected environment in which they can enjoy learning.
Euroleague Basketball and its main partner TURKISH AIRLINES joined their forces with Los 40 Principales, one of the main Radio Stations in Spain, to organize a Charity Concert during the last Final Four held in Barcelona in May 2010. The income derived from the ticket sales was donated to UNICEF in support of its Schools program in Africa.
She was leaning against the metal fence in the first row, crutches in hand, all smiles, defying misty weather conditions and looking up at the big stage, where some of the country's most recognizable entertainers were about to perform. "Do you know when Luis Fonsi will be coming in?" asked 19-year-old Carla, accompanied by her friend Maria. "We have been standing in line here since seven o’clock!” she exclaimed. With the Turkish Airlines Euroleague For Africa concert scheduled to start on the Palau Sant Jordi esplanade, Carla was getting anxious. But within the half-hour, local DJ Tony Aguilar got a roar out of the packed crowd by shouting: "Who wants to party, Barcelona?!!!!"
And the response was everybody. From Anais (19) and Maria (25), who argued whether they were there to see Alexandra Stan or El Pescao, to Maria (23) and Mané (37), who danced to the non-stop rhythm of most of the singers on hand to benefit such a worthy cause. While rejoicing in the music of their preferred artists Macaco, Carlos Jean or La Musicalité, Mané, born in Senegal, underlined his main reason for coming was the chance to help the children of his continent through the UNICEF-sponsored event: "It is a great initiative, and I wanted to be here to try and make a difference," he said before turning his attention back to the stage. He and the rest of the crowd proceeded to dance the Barcelona night away starting with the show's opening performer: the spectacular Alexandra Stan.
Indeed it was, as DJ Aguilar put it, "a chance to party and reach out to others". With T-shirt launches during breaks and Turkish Airlines giveaways, including a flight to Istanbul, the fun was all but assured, of course. But the most awaited and celebrated moment came when ex-Euroleague stars Tomas Jofresa and Roger Esteller, joined by Turkish Airlines Director of Marketing Miquel Alimbau, handed UNICEF a check with the night's ticket revenue as a donation for the Schools for Africa project.
"We want to thank everybody for coming here. We are all here because we love music and sports, but also because we want to show our solidarity with the children of Africa," said Jofresa, as the packed esplanade responded with cheers.
Basketball was, indeed, very much present on stage and on the dance floor, as former superstars Joe Arlauckas and Ferran Martinez also showed up to emphasize their support, and Final Four fans took the chance to party before the big title game on Sunday.
"I bought tickets ahead of time to come see the Final Four," said José (28), a die-hard Regal F.C. Barcelona fan who was there with his girlfriend, Maria José (33), after travelling cross-country to enjoy the weekend. "When Barça didn't make it, we still wanted to come, so we travelled all the way from my hometown of La Coruña to be here. I sat with the Panathinaikos fans yesterday in the stands and supported their team. After partying tonight, I will go back tomorrow to cheer for them in the final."
Even as the concert was unexpectedly cut short by the pouring rain around midnight, basketball and music united with UNICEF, Euroleague for Life, Turkish Airlines, 40 Principales and thousands of good-willed fans to make for a magical night that will be remembered well beyond this weekend of fun and games in Barcelona.