Sixteen European Football Leagues will dedicate their matches to the fight against hunger and poverty as an impressive show of football's solidarity during the "European Match Day against Hunger" (22-24 October) promoted by the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Leagues are calling upon football fans to sign an online petition calling on governments to give priority to the elimination of hunger.
"The 1billionhungry project" is a global outreach initiative of FAO and its partners. Since its launch in May, the petition has attracted more than a million signatures. "This shows that people around the globe are deeply troubled by the fate of the world's hungry," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "They are urging governments to take more forceful action against hunger and poverty."
"Proud" was how Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, CEO of the EPFL, qualified the feeling shared by the Leagues by organizing, for the second year, this Match Day against Hunger. In his own words: "the EPFL is with FAO, at the forefront of the fight for the most basic human right of all: the right to food. This is the moral duty of our generation. The challenge of our civilization. And the way we choose to respond to it will determine how future generations will look up to us and judge the leaders of our time!"
"We take a unified approach on the fight against hunger," said Tom Bender, Chairman of the Bundesliga Foundation. "Football has a high social responsibility which we take very seriously. This weekend, all major European leagues within the EPFL will utilize their collective media presence to push forward the battle against hunger."
"Football can play a powerful role in keeping hunger high on the global agenda" said Frank Rutten, CEO of the Dutch Eredivisie. " Despite the fact that around one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, the problem often seems to be forgotten".
The Eredivisie supports the European Match Day Against Hunger, by working closely together with our European colleagues and using the universal power of football to raise awareness and progress in tackling the problem."
The EPFL/FAO "Match Day against Hunger" will bring together more than 300 professional football clubs playing in more than 150 stadiums across Europe. Millions of fans will see players, coaches and referees blow the yellow whistle, the campaign's symbol signifying that it is time to stop the widespread suffering caused by chronic hunger. The yellow whistle, and with it the call to action against hunger, will be heard from Lisbon to Novosibirsk (Siberia) and from Glasgow to Palermo.
The individual leagues and clubs will stage various forms of public awareness events in connection with the "Match Day against Hunger": In Spain, the players, including Uruguayan World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan, Spanish World Champion Iker Casillas and Argentine striker Lionel Messi will enter the stadiums wearing T-shirts bearing the symbol of the campaign and blowing yellow whistles. In Italy, all team captains and referees will wear the yellow whistle. In Russia all players will enter the playing field wearing the campaign T-shirts and yellow whistles. At matches played in the Netherlands as well as at the Bayern Muenchen vs Hamburg game in Germany, a ball will be signed by all players and at matches throughout Germany, the referee will use the yellow whistle to referee the game.
Some football players have visited countries affected by hunger. "I visited FAO projects in Africa," said FAO Goodwill Ambassador and Schalke 04 and former Real Madrid striker, Raul Gonzalez. "I saw that concrete solutions do exist to solve the hunger problem. It's unacceptable that every 6 second a child dies". This sentiment was echoed by Hansi Müller the ambassador of the DFL Bundesliga. "During the EPFL field visit to an FAO community project in Egypt, I myself saw the dire conditions of hundreds of kids suffering from hunger. Football has the power to mobilise and sensitize public opinion. It's our moral duty, as public personalities, to give back something to society, supporting social causes like this".
Austrian league ambassador Herbert Prohaska said: "The main purpose of the Match Day against hunger is to show that all of us can fight against hunger and poverty. Because everywhere in the world people are playing football this is a perfect stage for this message".
Mr. Patrick Comninos, Super League Greece Executive Director: "Football has the power to increase awareness in helping address hunger as a global issue; over one billion people all over the world are affected and face the threat of undernourishment. We, at Super League Greece, unite our voices with those who have already signed the petition in support of the project at www.1billionhungry.org and urge all fans in Greece to show their support and solidarity".
Jerzy Dudek, Real Madrid football player and campaign testimonial for the Polish Poland:"If we, the football players, are able to support such a noble initiative in any way, then our participation constitutes our primary obligation. I also believe in Your support and engagement. The European Football society is united together towards one mutual goal - combating hunger and imposing a social pressure upon those in power - this is the goal that we aim to achieve".
Hristo Stoichkov testimonial of the Bulgarian League: "We must do everything in order to guarantee for all children around the world the love and food they need. That is their sacred right".
In a statement issued for the match day, the EPFL said that the fight against hunger is a "moral duty of our generation" and "the challenge of our civilization." "Match day against hunger is being organized so that in every stadium, across the whole of Europe, all EPFL Member Leagues, clubs, players and football fans can deliver a common message. It is a message that uses the power of football and calls upon all nations, all leaders and all people of goodwill to unite efforts, to mobilise resources and to help us win this cause for the most basic and fundamental human right: the right of food and human dignity". The statement urges people to sign the 1billionhungry campaign.