Professional Football against Hunger
In signing a Cooperation Agreement on 14 April 2008 in Lisbon, Portugal, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Association of the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) decided to translate into concrete actions their strong commitment to ensure the wellbeing of humanity and to join forces. In doing so they used their respective comparative advantages, to work in synergy to put an end to the suffering of the more than 860 million people around the word who do not have access to sufficient food in quantity and quality to lead healthy and active lives, and thus to achieve the World Food Summit target and the 8 Millennium Development goals (MDGs). The Agreement provides a unique opportunity to harness the power of football to mobilize the general public, promote and advocate for the fight against hunger at the European and world levels involving all professional football partners and the media. The main message is a call for action:
The European Professional Football Leagues and FAO officially launched a campaign to raise funds and awareness about the increasingly critical problem of world hunger on the 15 October 2008 in Rome, in the ambit of the World Food Day. The campaign, “Professional Football against Hunger,” was launched at FAO headquarters in the presence of Italian former football star and FAO Goodwill Ambassador Roberto Baggio together with other famous names in European football.
The ceremony was attended by Ministers of Sport from Austria, Italy, Spain, and representatives from seven Members of the EPFL.
The implementation of the campaign represents an important milestone in the involvement of Professional Football in the global fight against hunger and poverty, which includes the 29 Member Leagues and Associate Members of EPFL representing more than 800 professional football clubs across Europe.
The ceremony saw the EPFL announce that part of the Europe-wide campaign, would feature a football weekend against hunger on 20-22 March 2009 to raise awareness and funds in the struggle against hunger. The Match Day weekend involved League Members and Associate Members. In January 2009, League representatives, including well-known football players visited FAO TeleFood Projects in Egypt.
The third year of the campaign, the 2010-2011 Football season, saw the continuation of the Match Day weekend in support of ending the struggle against hunger on 23-24 October, 2010. The joint initiative between EPFL and FAO was followed up on 14 March 2011 by a second field visit, to Burkina Faso , with their respective delegations once again witnessing and getting involved in the work of FAO. The third initiative of the “Professional Football against Hunger” Campaign during the season saw the EPFL CEO
Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros join together once again with European Footballer of the Year 1994 and Ambassador of the FAO Campaign Hristo Stoichkov, along with Manchester City player and FAO Ambassador Patrick Viera in a Press Conference, on 30 March at the SoccerEx European Forum in Manchester.
The increasing importance of the fight against world hunger saw Sir David Richards and Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, respectively Chairman and CEO of the EPFL, among the EPFL delegation that travelled to Burkina Faso to visit EU-funded FAO humanitarian crisis projects, within the framework of the “Professional Football against Hunger” Campaign. The delegation, also included the extraordinary participation of Hristo Stoichkov, European Footballer of the Year 1994 and Ambassador of the Campaign, and Stefan Kapralov, President of the Bulgarian Professional Football League.
During the two-day visit, the EPFL delegation had the opportunity to touch the reality of local population and institutions involved in the “Emergency Crisis – Humanitarian Aid” EU funded FAO projects, in an effort to raise awareness of the international community and restore the self reliance of people affected by the 2010 food emergency caused by drought and torrential rain in the Sahel area.
“The European Leagues are taking on the responsibility that goes with its ever more prominent role in society,” said Sir David Richards, who is also Chairman of the English Premier League. “We want to contribute to alleviating the plight of nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every day”.
"We are committed to use the power of professional football and the influence of our 30 Member Leagues to eradicate hunger and poverty. That’s why we have come to Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest and most needed countries” said EPFL CEO Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros during the press conference in Ouagadougou.
Representing the 29 largest European professional football leagues and more than 800 clubs, EPFL teamed up with FAO in 2008 launching a “Professional Football against Hunger” campaign. Recently, they welcomed the world’s biggest humanitarian donor, the European Union - Humanitarian Aid (EU), as a new partner to raise awareness about the unacceptable level of hunger among European citizens.
EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, urged "We need to do more and we must act quickly if we want to avoid adults and children dying from starvation." Commissioner Georgieva further added: "In times of economic crisis and a growing number of catastrophes, good coordination among different humanitarian actors is not only desirable; it is indispensible. It is indeed the best –and the cheapest- way to respect the commitment the world leaders have taken to end hunger."
Help people feed themselves
When disaster strikes, the EU works with FAO to help rural communities return to farming so that they can feed themselves again. Currently, FAO is operating 27 emergency projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle-East and Latin-America with EU-funding, for a total budget of €37 million.
For their projects in Burkina Faso, FAO received around € 1.8 million from the EU that it used to provide livestock and animal feed, as well as support to urban gardening and training, reaching some 80,000 people.
“To ensure the continued support to people in need, it is crucial to communicate on what is being done to help them,” said Annika Söder, FAO’s Assistant-Director General for Communication and External Relations. “Football enables us to inform a wide European audience on the humanitarian programmes involved.”
Meanwhile, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Hristo Stoitchkov enjoyed a game of football with school children. “Football gives hope,” he said. “As a kid, I also lived with hunger. As long as you play, you don’t think about it.”
With over 920 million of the world’s population undernourished or just under one-sixth of the total population, increasing understanding among European youth and society in general, may help to bring pressure to bear on governments to end world hunger, also known as the silent killer.
A high-level delegation from the EPFL and former star football players visited TeleFood projects developed by FAO in Cairo, Egypt, on Wednesday 14th of January, 2009.
The field visits occurred within the scope of the Cooperation Agreement signed between both organizations and followed the launch of the humanitarian campaign “Professional Football against Hunger”, at FAO headquarters the previous October.
The field visit provided the delegation the opportunity to see projects designed to improve the nutrition and livelihoods of vulnerable women and children, and to train youngsters in pesticide-free crop production techniques.
The group included the EPFL Chief Executive Officer and delegation leader Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, the President of the Spanish League and EPFL Board member, José Luís Astiazarán, and Chief Marketing Officer of the German Football League and President of the Bundesliga Foundation, Tom Bender, who where joined by the 1982 World Champion Paolo Rossi (Italy – Ambassador of the Lega Calcio), the former German football star Hansi Müller (Germany – Ambassador of the Bundesliga), and the coach of the Al-Ahly Football Club, Manuel José (Portugal – Ambassador of the Portuguese League), four time champion of the African Champions League.
After the field visits the EPFL delegation and FAO senior representatives were welcomed by the former First Lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, in a meeting held at the Presidential Palace, in Cairo. Mrs. Mubarak was nominated in October 2008 as Raeia of FAO’s activities and TeleFood Programmes. This powerful journey concluded with a meeting with the Egyptian Sport Minister, Mr. Hassan Sakr, followed by a joint press conference at the National Sports Council, in the Egyptian capital.
“While we speak, 963 million human beings are starving around the world. The need for greater action – not just the usual proclamation of good intentions, but real action – has never been so urgent and so dramatically needed. This is an indeclinable moral obligation of all and each one of us. To stand still is simply not an option. As we witnessed in children’s eyes today, even the simplest gestures can make the difference”, stated Emanuel Medeiros during one of the field visits.
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,” Diouf said.
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