Jürgen Griesbeck, the man behind the imaginative streetfootballworld project which helps thousands of underprivileged young people around the world each year is the winner of the coveted 2006 Laureus Sport for Good Award.
Griesbeck is co-founder of the programme which he initiated following the murder of Colombian footballer Andrés Escobar, a family friend, who was shot after scoring an own goal at the 1994 World Cup. German-born Griesbeck decided to demonstrate, as a memorial to Escobar, that football could be used as a means of promoting peace.
His objective was to bring together the young people of the Colombian city of Medellin to play football together as an alternative to being drawn into the world of drugs and violence. To achieve his goal he developed rules that ensured that teams only won if they demonstrated fairplay.
Streetfootballworld now consists of a global network of over 70 projects. The first official streetfootballworld championships 'Festival 06' will be held in Berlin from July 1-8 at the same time as the FIFA World Cup.
After receiving the Laureus statuette at the Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony in Barcelona, Griesbeck said: "When I heard the news about Andrés it was about 5am in the morning and it hurt so deeply. My wife was working at the club where he played so we knew him well. It was a basic moment. I knew I wanted to do something with football, but it took some time to work it out in the specific context. The football for peace approach means we play only with mixed teams, without a referee so that each player can learn how to handle right and wrong on their own, and fairplay is an essential part of the rules.
"I think in Medellin it was the first time people from a background of conflict were brought together, and it was football that did it. We have aimed to make possible the impossible. It is a great honour to be recognised. And the Award is really for all the youngsters who are participating in the project and investing in a better world," he added.