At a ceremony held in Geneva on Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) and football’s world governing body, FIFA, announced that they are teaming up to raise awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
By signing a memorandum of understanding at WHO’s Geneva-based headquarters, both organizations committed to a four-year collaboration that will promote healthy living through football globally, potentially spreading the message to huge numbers: “Half the world watched the 2018 World Cup”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the launch of the partnership. “This means there’s huge potential for us to team up to reach billions of people with information to help them live longer, healthier lives”.
FIFA was represented at the launch by its President, Gianni Infantino, who expressed his satisfaction at the link-up between the two global organizations: “Football is a unique, universal language and we want to use our platform and network to support health initiatives and promote healthy lifestyles all around the world”.
Showing cigarettes the red card
Efforts to convince spectators to quit smoking will be ramped up as part of the collaboration between WHO and FIFA, who have already cooperated on anti-smoking campaigns, including at the 2018 World Cup.
WHO will work with FIFA to ensure tobacco-free environments at events organized by the governing body, encourage national football federations to adopt tobacco-free policies, and provide technical advice to FIFA on a range of health matters, including hygiene and disease prevention.
Over the four years, joint programmes and initiatives involving national associations, footballers, coaches and volunteers, will help get people moving through football-related activities.
The importance of sport in rallying people and communities around a collective cause has long been recognized by the UN System: celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace in April, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed pointed out that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development identified sport as “an enabler of sustainable development”.
Goals of team WHO/FIFA:
- Advocate healthy lifestyles through football.
- Bring in policies to ensure FIFA and national football events are tobacco-free, with WHO providing advice on health matters.
- Develop lasting improvements in health and safety at FIFA events.
- Develop programmes and initiatives to increase participation in physical activity through playing “the beautiful game” at all levels.