The United States beat Panama on a penalty shootout in yesterday’s Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, but the partnership will endure long after that final whistle.Under the agreement signed on Thursday night between the two semi-final games at the stadium under the slogan “With Children We Win,” UNICEF and CONCACAF pledged to develop a long-term partnership to benefit children in Latin America and the Caribbean by integrating advocacy and information and building grass-roots programmes.”UNICEF believes that sports and play must be part and parcel of every child’s life, girl and boy, advantaged and disadvantaged, talented and instinctive,” UNICEF Representative Andres Franco said. “Play comes naturally to children, and is a powerful force to ensure that children, especially children in the developing world, realize their right to play.”CONCACAF President Jack Warner reinforced the message adding: “As the most popular sport in the world, football has the potential to be a tremendous power for good, especially for young people. Through this relationship, we will explore ways to harness the power of football to have a positive impact on the lives of children across this region.”The focus on HIV/AIDS and violence is due to the importance these issues carry in the CONCACAF region. With a prevalence rate of 2.3 per cent, the Caribbean region has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, next to Sub-Saharan Africa.Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the world, with children and women the main victims. In 2002 alone, 653 children were murdered in Guatemala. Two thirds of victims of sexual crimes reported in Nicaragua in 2004 were children and adolescents and 28 per cent of murder victims in El Salvador in 2004 were boys between 10 and 19 years of age. More than 2,000 Honduran children were murdered between 1998 and 2002.”We need to work in partnership to get girls and boys on to sports fields and playgrounds, and to educate children and their families about the benefits of sports,” UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg said.