The Premier League and FIFA referees
Footballers, referees and fans united this past weekend for a “European Match Day against Hunger” highlighting the plight of 925 million people in the world who do not have enough to eat.
Some 314 football clubs from 16 European leagues were involved in the event, which in turn promoted “The 1billionhungry project” – a petition drive by FAO and partners designed to pressure world leaders into addressing chronic hunger.
Players across Europe including World Cup-winning captain Iker Casillas and Argentine star Lionel Messi wore 1billionhungry T-shirts as did referees.
Team captains and referees wore the project’s yellow whistle at matches in Italy, while in countries including the Netherlands and at Germany’s Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg game a ball was signed by all the players. These names will all be added to the petition.
Fans also saw referees starting and officiating matches by blowing on their yellow whistles.
Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich defender and German international, said: "This initiative shows what sport means. It unites cultures and brings many social groups together and that is what makes football special.”
Atlético de Madrid’s goalkeeper David De Gea visited FAO headquarters in Rome earlier this year to sign the petition and was involved in the Match Day against Hunger. In Spain, he also appears in a television ad asking his fans for their signatures.
“The signatures of the fans are just as important as those of the footballers,” he said. “All the football family is standing together.”
Match Day against Hunger was born out of an agreement signed in 2008 between FAO and the Association of European Professional Football Leagues. The two organizations work together to raise public awareness of the vast scale of hunger worldwide. Past initiatives have included a television spot featuring several star footballers calling on fans to sign the petition to end hunger. This was the second Match Day to be held.
Frank Rutten, chief of the Dutch Eredivisie league and member of the EPFL, explained: “Football can play a powerful role in keeping hunger high on the global agenda. Despite the fact that around one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, the problem often seems to be forgotten.”
Leagues in eastern Europe became involved this year, with high visibility at matches in Poland and the Ukraine. Meanwhile in Russia, supporters were able to sign the project petition as they entered and left stadiums.
“This year we had 157 matches involved compared to 100 in 2009, so we can see how the event has grown dramatically,” said Clara Velez Fraga of FAO.
“Ultimately the plight of hungry people was highlighted to millions of supporters attending matches across Europe and to others throughout the world seeing coverage on television and in other media.
“We hope this will increase people’s desire for urgent action to bring about change, and lead to thousands more people signing the petition and asking political leaders to act now.”
See photographs from the weekend on Flickr by clicking here: www.flickr.com/photos/1billionhungry/sets/72157625078678417/with/5113938152/
“The 1billionhungry project” petition now has over 1.8 million signatures.Have you signed yet? Visit www.1billionhungry.org
Photos - Match Day against Hunger: www.flickr.com/photos/1billionhungry/sets/72157625078678417/with/5113938152/