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Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 14:07 GMT


UK

Red is the colour, football is the game

From left: Des Lynam, Tony Blair and Arsene Wenger go for a kickabout

The 1998 Poppy Appeal has been launched with an impromptu kickabout between Tony Blair and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in the gardens of Downing Street.

Mr Wenger presented the prime minister with a special Poppy Appeal football on behalf of the Premiership and league clubs who are working with the Royal British Legion to promote this year's campaign.

The legion's Charles Lewis, who organised the high-profile launch, said that Mr Blair told Frenchman Mr Wenger that it was nice to see an all-British side - Aston Villa - at the top of the English Premiership.

"There was quite an animated discussion between them about the fact that the team at the top of the Premiership contains no overseas players," he said.


[ image: Tony Blair: On the ball]
Tony Blair: On the ball
"Both Mr Blair and Arsene Wenger agreed it was good for English football."

Arsenal won both the FA Cup and the Premiership last season by fielding a side full of overseas players.

A fundraising message recorded by the BBC's Match of the Day presenter Des Lynam, who was present at the launch, was played before 46 games across England and Wales at the weekend.

Players and fans also observed a minute's silence in memory of war victims before kick-off at all professional matches.

Mr Lewis said that the Poppy Appeal's relationship with football opened up the Royal British Legion's work to a new generation.

"Football players like Michael Owen, David Beckham and Alan Shearer are loved by both young boys and young girls.

"And if it brings attention to the work of the Royal British Legion then that is what we are after."

Mr Lewis added: "We were delighted to leave the specially decorated poppy football for Mr Blair and his boys."

The 1997 appeal, fronted by Dame Vera Lynn and the Spice Girls, raised £17.3m for ex-servicemen and women, and their families.



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24 Oct 98 | Football
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11 Nov 97 | UK
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