Football stars join search for missing girl

Daniel Silva

PRAIA DA LUZ,Portugal - A British girl's disappearance in Portugal more than two weeks ago has sparked an unprecedented international campaign to find her, involving everyone from football stars to multinationals.

Former England football captain David Beckham and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo have made televised appeals for information about the whereabouts of Madeleine McCann, who vanished from a hotel room at a resort at Praia da Luz on May 3, while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling and billionaire Richard Branson are among the celebrities and business leaders who have contributed to a reward fund that tops R35million for information leading to the girl's return.

A video with images of the four-year-old girl set to the soundtrack of the Simple Minds hit Don't You Forget About Me was broadcast during the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium at the weekend.

The match was attended by 90000 people and an estimated 500million watched on television in 160 countries. British long-distance bus operator National Express said it would put up posters of Madeleine at bus stations in the 27 country's served by its Eurolines network.

British Airports Authority has agreed to put up posters at all of its UK airports and several oil companies have said they will do the same at their petrol stations.

A website set up by the McCann family to help find the girl has received more than 80million hits since it was launched on Wednesday. Thousands of people have made donations to a fund set up to finance the search campaign. - Sapa-AFP