A team of former European football stars, their eyes no longer on landing the ball in the net, are looking to score another kind of goal this week when they visit Egypt as part of the global battle against hunger in the latest collaboration between the United Nations and world sport.
The stars, including 1982 World Champion Paolo Rossi of Italy, Hans-Peter Müller of Germany and Manuel José of Portugal, will join European football officials visiting UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects in Cairo tomorrow as part of the Professional Football Against Hunger awareness and fundraising campaign.
The visit, the group’s first concrete initiative since the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) launched its anti-hunger fundraising campaign at FAO headquarters in Rome last October, will focus on FAO projects to improve the nutrition and livelihoods of vulnerable women and children and train youngsters in pesticide-free crop techniques.
“One sixth of the world’s population is suffering from severe hunger or dramatically struggling to put food on the table. The need for action – not the usual nice words of circumstance, but real action – has never been so urgent and so needed,” EPFL Chief Executive Officer and delegation leader Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros said. “That’s why we have joined FAO at the forefront of this fight. A fight for every individual’s right to food and human dignity.”
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf lauded EPFL for putting its muscle behind the campaign at a time when the number of hungry people worldwide has soared to 963 million amid global financial worries. “FAO appreciates the power of sport, and football in particular, to spread awareness and mobilize political will and financial resources in the fight against hunger, a fight that is more urgent than ever,” he said.
Professional Football Against Hunger includes the 28 Member Leagues and Associate Members of EPFL, representing more than 960 professional football clubs across Europe.
The visit, taking place under the patronage of Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, encompasses projects of FAO’s TeleFood Programme, a campaign of broadcasts, concerts, sporting events and other activities to harness the power of media, celebrities and concerned citizens to fight hunger.
UN agencies frequently join with athletes and international sports organizations to get their messages across and raise funds. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has teamed up with the European Swimming League in “a race against time” to prevent deaths from unclean water.
In addition, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) partnered the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the governing body of women’s tennis, to promote gender equality, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launched “Cricket Against Hunger” with the England and Wales team to draw attention to the plight of the 400 million chronically hungry children around the world.