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 at the dedicated "Professional Football Against Hunger" exhibition stand together with FAO Goodwill Ambassador Patrick Vieira – the former Arsenal and Manchester City star, born in Senegal and capped over a hundred times for France - and EPFL's German Bundesliga Ambassador Steffen Freund, who spent five years at Spurs and won 21 caps for Germany.
“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".
“Football is the great global unifier,” said Sir David Richards, Chairman of the EPFL. "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.
Patrick Vieira, former French international star player and FAO Goodwill Ambassador, was born in Senegal, one of the affected countries. 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.”
Other football ambassadors of the campaign include legendary Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos, highest ever Champions League goalscorer Raúl González (Spain), Francesco Toldo (Italy); Felix Magath (Germany), Herbert Prohaska (Austria); Vidar Riseth (Norway), Jerzy Dudek (Poland, former Champions League winning Liverpool goalkeeper) ) and Alexey Medvedev (Russia).