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FOOTBALL

World Cup city sets green goals

By Phuong-Y Nguyen for CNN

story.goal.jpg
Franz Beckenbauer has registered the highest score on the goal board so far, scoring five times out of six.

SPECIAL REPORT

(CNN) -- As Germany gears up for the World Cup, organizers in one host city are hoping football supporters will not only be seeing green on the pitch but thinking green as well.

In the final run-up to the tournament, Gelsenkirchen -- a former mining city in Germany's Ruhr industrial heartland -- is hosting its own "Solar Cup" in an effort to promote solar power as an alternative source of energy.

Participants in the event -- inspired by the German TV show "Actuelles Sport Studio" -- attempt to score as many times as possible from six attempts by shooting through targets in a goal constructed entirely from solar panels.

Event organizer Werner Rybarski told CNN that German football legend Franz Beckenbauer had registered the highest score so far, scoring five times out of six.

Gelsenkirchen, once one of the most important mining cities in Europe, is working hard to redefine its image. Since the close of its last colliery in 2000, the city has experienced a revival of industry through environmental projects.

"What was once a mining city, today Gelsenkirchen is proudly renowned for its advances in cleaner solar energy," Annika Lante, the city's press officer, told CNN.

"So far, we've had over 5,000 participants in the tournament from corporate companies, churches and schools. The competition is expected to generate over 20, 000 euros for solar projects" Rybarski said.

The tournament reaches a climax on June 8 with finals held in the city's Science Park -- one day before Gelsenkirchen welcomes Ecuador and Costa Rica for the first of five World Cup matches at the local Aufshalke Arena, home of German FC Schalke, one of the German Bundesliga's most popular clubs.

Lante said the tournament would not only help to sponsor solar projects in Germany but would support similar schemes in South Africa, where the next World Cup will be held in 2010.

"Through the Solar Cup competition we are creating an energy bridge to South Africa," Lante said. "Not only is the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia offering funding for solar panels back home, it is also encouraging energy efficient projects in its partner district of Mpunmalanga in South Africa."

Germany already enjoys a reputation as one of the most environmentally aware countries in Europe and World Cup organizers have stated their ambition of making the tournament "carbon neutral."

"This is a great chance to join environmental issue with people's love of football," Rybarski said. "Environmental projects to combat climate change has always made this city unique, but Gelsenkirchen is also known for the Schalke football fan base. In a way this union is almost natural."

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