European Commission - Press release
The European Commission and professional football sound the alarm on the Sahel crisis with the Match Day Against Hunger (30 March – 2 April)
Brussels, 28 March 2012 - The “Professional Football Against Hunger” campaign is coming to hundreds of European football stadiums with the message that action is needed now to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Sahel region of Africa. A hunger crisis caused by drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict is threatening millions of people there.
Promoted by the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), the European Commission and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the biggest-ever Match Day Against Hunger kicks off on 30 March to spread this call for urgent action.
By the time the last match is played on 2 April, the campaign’s message will have swept across the continent from Glasgow to Vienna and from Málaga to Novosibirsk, involving 300 professional football clubs in 20 leagues throughout 16 European countries and reaching millions of football fans.
The European Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, Kristalina Georgieva, will mark the event by attending Soccerex, the leading European forum and annual gathering of the football industry in Manchester. Today she will present the campaign and the dedicated "Professional Football Against Hunger" exhibition stand together with FAO Goodwill Ambassador Patrick Vieira and EPFL Bundesliga Ambassador Steffen Freund.
“The most vulnerable and most tragic victims of the Sahel crisis are children – those whose dreams of becoming famous football players, or going to university, will be crushed by the physical and mental toll of hunger. We can help save more of these children and give them a chance to follow their dreams – and this is what this campaign is about," said Commissioner Georgieva. "Thanks to football's magic ability to reach millions of people, we can save more lives in the Sahel. Together we can save lives".
“We must act now to help people help themselves,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO. “At the same time, we need to build resilience in local communities to stop jumping from crisis to crisis, and to prevent droughts from leading inevitably to famine.”
“Football is the great global unifier,” said Sir David Richards, Chairman of the EPFL. “The leagues and the players know the power and popularity of our sport and we are proud to use that power to tell stories that otherwise would not be told. European professional football is providing the megaphone for this message so that the right help can get to the people in need as soon as possible.”
The campaign relies on its goodwill ambassadors – world-famous football stars who are working to convey its message to hundreds of millions of fans across Europe.
FAO Goodwill Ambassador and Spanish football star Raúl González Blanco said: “We need public support for food crises like this one. No one knows like footballers how crucial it is to have the stadium on your side to win the match.”
Patrick Vieira, former French international star player and FAO Goodwill Ambassador, was born in Senegal, one of the affected countries. “We have a responsibility to those who are in distress through no fault of their own,” he said. “The right to food is a basic human right, and no one in today’s world should go hungry”.
Former international star and ambassador from the Bulgarian professional football league Hristo Stoitchkov visited Burkina Faso last year to see the joint work of the European Commission and FAO up close. He said, “I have witnessed their life-saving, life-changing work first hand. They help people to feed themselves today and prepare for tomorrow. It’s the right kind of help getting to the right people.”
“We are all diminished when somebody, in any part of the globe, dies from hunger,” said the Brazilian star player Roberto Carlos. He added: “This is even more tragic when we know that these deaths are preventable. United we can save a lot of lives in the Sahel.”
Former Italian national team goalkeeper and campaign ambassador from the Italian Lega Serie A Francesco Toldo highlighted that, “The people of the Sahel may think the world has forgotten them. This weekend, European football will stand in solidarity with them. They will know that they are not alone.”
Spanish striker and campaign’s ambassador from the Spanish professional football league Roberto Soldado said, “Together we can prevent this crisis from turning into a full scale catastrophe.”
Felix Magath, former footballer and active coach in the German Bundesliga stated, “We will ask our fans to join with us in calling for urgent help to the Sahel. United in this one cause we can truly make a difference”.
Other football ambassadors of the campaign include Herbert Prohaska (Österreichische Fußball Bundesliga – Austria); Vidar Riseth (Norsk Toppfotball – Norway), Jerzy Dudek (Polish Professional Football League) and Alexey Medvedev (Football National League of the Russian Federation).
Nearly 16 million people, mainly households of farmers and herders, are estimated to be at risk of hunger in the Sahel. The European Commission and FAO are bringing life-saving and livelihood-protecting cash, food, agricultural input and training to those who need them most, in addition to planning longer-term interventions to help people feed themselves again and address the root causes of the recurring food crises in the Sahel
Match Day Against Hunger is the flagship event of the “Professional Football Against Hunger” campaign, launched in 2008 by EPFL, representing the 30 largest professional football leagues and almost 800 clubs across Europe, and FAO, the United Nations agency leading international efforts to defeat hunger.
Last year the European Commission – one of the world’s largest humanitarian donors – joined the partnership. The campaign’s focus turned to the work of the Commission and FAO in restoring the self-reliance of people struck by disaster.
For more information
Match Day Against Hunger:
Professional Football Against Hunger:
The European Commission's work in the Sahel:
Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva's website: