Bill Shankly, the late great Liverpool manager, once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.
Even the great Shankly himself couldn’t have known how true his famous phrase would turn out to be: during this weekend of Matches Against Hunger (Click here for the list of matches) the beautiful game can make the difference between life and death for millions of people.
Shankly had a tough upbringing. In his autobiography he recalls the hunger he suffered as a child growing up in a Scottish mining village. “We were always hungry,” he wrote. He won his battle against hunger. But in our own rich world we are 945 million short of winning for everyone. This is how many people go to bed hungry every night.
In the African region of the Sahel getting something to eat really is a matter of life and death. Over 15 million people are affected by the crisis, with one million children severely at risk.
These children are the future of their countries; among them are the future sportsmen, scientists and leaders. But if they slide into malnutrition this future will be lost.
Together we can prevent this loss. We Europeans are the most generous people – we are the Premier League of humanitarian aid. The European Commission is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world and has already committed 290 million euros in aid this year to the Sahel.
Football is the greatest sport in the world, powerful enough to make sure that those who have no access to the high corridors of power will have their voices heard loud and clear – as it can only be done in a football stadium. And we will keep on going until we win the match against hunger!