Called PASS , the initiative will be fronted by former international football star Patrick Vieira and start during the Group Stage of the UEFA Europa League Season 2012/13, which kicks off on September 20 across Europe. The initiative aims to reach one million school days over the next three seasons and builds on the work the company has already done to support education globally.
"Moving money for better is at the heart of what we do, and education is one of the main reasons our customers send money" said Hikmet Ersek, Western Union President and CEO. "According to UNESCO  , 71 million bright, hardworking students globally are not enrolled in secondary or vocational education. It's a tremendous loss of economic and human potential, since each extra year of school can increase an individual's potential economic opportunity. Through PASS , we intend to harness the power of football to build awareness of this challenge as well as deliver on-the-ground support that will make a difference to young people and their communities."
The initiative will provide teacher training and student scholarships through nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), with an initial focus on eleven countries – Brazil, China, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Romania, Russia and Turkey.
"Where I come from, opportunities for a quality education are rare," explained Vieira the former Caen, AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester City FC and French international player, who was born in Senegal before moving to France at the age of eight and is currently football development executive at Manchester City FC.
"Football was my ticket to success, but for the vast majority of young people education is the key that allows them to become whatever they want to be. That's why I'm supporting this campaign. It will benefit students, teachers and schools across the world, particularly in places that need it most, like Senegal where I was born," said Vieira.
Through the UEFA Europa League's global audience, football fans from Africa, the Americas, Asia as well as Europe, will also be given the chance to add to the fund during the season through a range of online and social media mechanics.
David Taylor, CEO of UEFA Events S.A., commented: "As well as being broadcast to fans in over 200 countries, European football is the aspiration for many players around the world and last season players representing 113 different countries were involved in the UEFA Europa League. Through Western Union's PASS initiative, some of those players will be able to give something back to their hometown communities beyond simply the excitement and entertainment they create on the pitch."