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Playing for humanity

February 28th, 2012

Today I had a fantastic guest whose name you surely know – Raúl González, the football star of Real Madrid and Schalke 04. He is goodwill ambassador for the campaign against hunger that the European Commission leads together with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the European Professional Football Leagues. We just launched the campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of hunger and the efforts to solve it.

We will focus the campaign on the Sahel region in Africa. I told Raúl about my recent trip to Niger and Chad, where 300,000 kids die from hunger-related diseases each year. Hunger will kill even more children in 2012 as a new food crisis looms. This is why we are acting now to prevent a bigger disaster. In this effort, the help of ambassadors like Raúl, like Hristo Stoichkov, like Roberto Baggio, is indispensable.

Why? Because in the fight against hunger, humanity must win. And who would be better to help us win this fight than the people who live day after day, week after week, winning in football? Raúl has just scored his 400th goal in professional football, so we clearly have a winner on our side. But equally importantly, he is also a fair player, who has never been penalised with a red card in his entire career!

When it comes down to hunger, the world still falls 945 million people short of fair play – this is how many today will go to bed hungry. Sadly, over the last years their numbers have been going up. Raúl and our other ambassadors can help to raise attention to hunger, so we change the game and win the fight against it.

I am convinced citizens have a huge role to play. When the Europeans are aware of injustice and cruelty, like the tragedies of children who die from malnutrition or have their future crushed because they are stunted and never fully develop, they open their hearts and their wallets. But citizens need to be excited, and football has the magic ability to reach billions. We rely on this ability – on 31 March and 1 April over 300 professional football clubs around 15 European countries will gather together to play in the European Match Day Against Hunger. By lucky coincidence, 1 April is also the 20th anniversary of ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian service. And I could not imagine a better way to celebrate our anniversary than to watch the great game of football be played for humanity.

You can watch the video about the campaign here.

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