On the 50th birthday of the EU, one of modern football's most prestigious venues, Old Trafford, will host a charity match between Manchester United and a European XI containing some of the continent's top players. All the proceeds will go to United's charitable foundation. The president of the European Commission, Mr Barroso, praised the event: "It is a great way to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the European Union, through the great game of football that inspires Europeans in a unique way, through a shared passion and a language shared by all."
The European team will be managed by the Italian Marcello Lippi, who led his national team to victory at the last world cup. Three top players, all English, are already confirmed: David Beckham, of Real Madrid, and Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher from Liverpool.
The joint anniversary marks the occasion when, on 13 March 1957, Manchester United became the first English club to take part in one of the European club competitions organised by the continent's governing football body, UEFA. Just a few days later, on 25 March, the treaties of Rome were signed, giving birth to the modern‑day EU.
Rooted, symbolically, in almost exactly the same week 50 years ago, these events sowed the seeds of two phenomena which, although their paths hardly ever crossed, were destined to help shape an emerging European consciousness.
Like the EU, European football has since the 1950s seen many developments. Most notably, it has expanded, tearing down borders in the process. Fifty years ago, football was mainly national in character. Today, it has much more European horizons. Serie A, La Liga and the Premiership have fan bases spanning the entire continent, not just at home. Europe's stadia play host to weekly drama featuring a melting pot of nationalities, players and fans alike. Like football, European integration, in all its forms, is and always will be guided by the ideals of unity, diversity and mobility.