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Former U.S. MNT Defender Marcelo Balboa Visits Nigeria

CHICAGO (October 13, 2006) - Former U.S. Men's National Team defender Marcelo Balboa traveled to Nigeria this week to conduct football clinics for children as part of the U.S. State Department's International Sports Initiative.

“I think this sports diplomacy program is great,” said Balboa in an interview with Voice of America. “Being a professional soccer player, soccer has given so much to me... The people here in Nigeria have been absolutely wonderful. I think it's wonderful to be able to reach out and help children and teach children."

The three-time World Cup veteran and Hall of Famer conducted sessions on soccer, but he also emphasized the need to rely on something other than sports.

"We emphasized education during the clinics," Balboa said. "We told the children that education goes a lot farther in life than soccer. An education comes first."

Balboa's trip to Africa is one of four International Sports initiative programs. He was accompanied by former U.S. WNT assistant coach Lauren Gregg. The International Sports initiative will serve as the first program in U.S. Soccer’s own International Relations Program established earlier this summer to help strengthen the organization’s ties within the worldwide soccer community. The four-part program runs from Sept. 13 to Oct. 14.