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Saturday, July 11, 1998 Published at 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK


Soccer star launches anti-landmine campaign

Ginola will go from providing crosses to helping the Red Cross

The French soccer star David Ginola is to visit Cambodia or Angola in his first mission as the new figurehead of the Red Cross landmines campaign.

The flamboyant Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has been chosen to take on the role formerly played by Diana, Princess of Wales.

"I am very honoured to be chosen to head this campaign - it is a cause that is worth fighting for," he said.

Ginola, aged 31, will be the public face of the charity's efforts to abolish landmines which are estimated to kill or maim 2,000 people a day.

He insisted he was not a replacement for Diana, but spoke of his admiration for her work.

[ image: Princess Diana made the world aware of landmines]
Princess Diana made the world aware of landmines
The Princess focused world attention on the issue in January 1997 when she visited Angola, where up to a third of the population are estimated to have been injured by landmines.

Her visit led to the Ottawa Convention outlawing the international sale and use of anti-personnel mines.

The UK government is trying to ratify the convention before the first anniversary of Diana's death on August 31.

The Landmines Bill, which has cross-party support, was rushed through all five of its Commons stages in less than five hours during a special sitting on Friday. It now goes to the House of Lords.

The BBC's Emma Simpson on Ginola's new role
Ginola, who has two children, told a news conference in Paris to launch his involvement with the charity that his love for his children had compelled him to do what he could to help survivors of anti-personnel landmines.

"As a father I am very sensitive to the pain of children and wanted to bring a message of hope.

[ image: Finding buried mines is a difficult task]
Finding buried mines is a difficult task
The Red Cross hope Ginola, currently working as a World Cup pundit for the BBC, will attract support from fellow soccer stars.

"David spoke in very moving terms about why he wanted to do this work and we are very happy, like Diana, to have such a figure working for us," said Stephane Mantion, campaigns director of the French Red Cross.

"He indicated his desire to visit some of the mine-affected countries but also to encourage some of his fellow football players into a similar role. It is plainly something in which he has a very strong, passionate belief."

Ginola became involved with the campaign through a friend who works for the organisation in France.

However he was unable to turn up to the original launch of the campaign because of a rumoured bust-up with hardline Spurs manager Christian Gross.

He was alleged to have been concerned that publicity surrounding Ginola's new commitment was disrupting the team's pre-season training in Switzerland.

But the British Red Cross spokesman said the dispute had now been amicably resolved: "Christian is now very much behind David's involvement and certainly understands it."

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