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May 25, 2012

Read Robbie's Mexico Diary

Read about Robbie’s recent UNICEF trip to Mexico in his three day diary below.

Get an insight to into why Robbie particularly wanted to visit Mexico on this UNICEF trip and read his first hand account of what happened when he visited the slums and met the children and their parents living there.

Find out how he’s hoping to bring some 1966 English World Cup passion to the footy game at Old Trafford this Sunday, how he’s looking forward to beating the Rest of the World team and, with your help, raising loads of money for Soccer Aid 2012.


Day one

I’ve played in Mexico in the past and it’s always been a place that I’ve wanted to know more about and go back to with UNICEF.

Being a UNICEF Ambassador I’ve been privileged to meet some of the children Soccer Aid has helped; children orphaned by AIDS in South Africa, those affected by the terrible earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and now some of Mexico City’s most vulnerable children.

I feel a bit apprehensive once touching down. It's always a bit tense on arrival into these locations, you want to do a good job but it’s sometimes really hard to see how tough the children have it. Johnny is with me and it will be good to share this with him when he’s put so much into Soccer Aid.

Day two

First off I meet a mum called Aidee who has come back to show us where she and her children were living on the streets in the centre of the city. Two of her children, Hanna 10 and Josue 5, are here too. It’s hard for them and I try and make them laugh a bit with help from our translator. I wish I spoke Spanish, every year I plan to learn, but it hasn't happened yet!
They walk me down a really busy road with lots of makeshift tents and old furniture all over the place. There’s a little boy kind of weaving into the road and I want to run over and pull him away from the cars. Hanna shows us the shack where she used to live. Everywhere stinks of glue.

There are drug addicts wondering around off their heads, seeing them near the kids is really bad; it’s absolutely no place for a child. There are no toilets, no clean water.

One little boy is Ricardo, almost 2. His mum, Augustina, comes over and in her arms is a tiny baby, only one month old. I can’t believe a newborn is living in this place. Johnny and I feel quite desperate leaving here. You always feel you want to do more, to do something right there and then. You can’t help but get overwhelmed and I feel like its affecting me even more this year with the little one in Ayda’s tummy.

Day Three

We spend today in big slums in Itzapalapa meeting lots of children in living in extreme poverty. One little girl Kimberley is only a year and a half. She and her five brothers and sisters live in shacks on the side of the road. There is lots of rubbish everywhere, the smell is terrible. The kids are all vulnerable to being bitten by rats and getting diseases. It feels edgy for us so we were really worried for their safety. The kids are so small and young and you just want to protect them.

We leave this part of the city and head south. We stop at a huge crossroads and I meet Angel, 5, and Lluvia, 3, who are playing in the dirt. Their parents come here every day to wash windscreens to try and make enough money to feed the children. But they’re not safe here as people have tried to buy or kidnap the children a few times. It’s absolutely shocking.
Angel and I had a kick about too. The kids have no idea who I am, but usually if you bring a ball and invent some sort of game, they are happy to play and laugh. I love that bit, any initial nerves that you feel on arrival always go away once you are around the kids. I can’t wait to play with my own.
I think about how when I become a dad my child will be safe and protected and Soccer Aid seems more important than ever. There are children just like Angel and Lluvia living all over the world who need our help.

We head off to a shelter, where Hanna and Josue and their brothers are now living. It’s really basic but it’s a world away from the terrible place we met them yesterday.

Here, you can see they are safe, away from kidnappers and violence. They have water and toilets and food to eat. The head of the shelter tells me how UNICEF is working with the government to make sure children like Hanna are protected at shelters like these so they can have healthy and safe lives.

All this has really hammered home how dangerous the world can be for a child. I just have to remember we’re doing our bit and it’s an honour to meet these children.

Johnny and I leave ready to play some serious football in Soccer Aid. We want to smash the Rest of the World, and Johnny, Mark, I and the rest of the boys will definitely be bringing some ’66 style passion to the pitch.

But we’ll also be thinking about the children living really tough lives all around the world. Because Soccer Aid is really all about helping UNICEF help them. Seeing the money that’s been raised from mine and Johnny’s simple idea, gets you more excited every year. Whether it’s for children in Mexico, Haiti or Africa, it feels really good to know that we can all play our part in helping those less fortunate than ourselves.