Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Raul and the 2012 Football Against Hunger Campaign

It has been quite awhile since I have updated my blog. But this is one issue that I know needs to be posted.  

Friends know how much I adore Raul Gonzales Blanco that I even learned to follow and love FC Schalke04 despite my being a Madridista. 

Since his transfer to the Royal Blues, which I blogged about in Raul Says Adios to Real Madrid he has managed to work well with the Blues and continues to contribute goals to the team, and very recently even won 2011 Goal of the Year in Bundesliga. In many of Schalke’s matches, one can see how easily he has been accepted and how great the respect his team has for him, and most importantly how truly well-loved he is by the fans. He has even earned the moniker Señor Raul from fans and he himself is amazed with the acceptance, support, affection and respect that has been given to him by the Germans. 

In fact, he said in an interview that people would come up the street to him and thank him for coming to Germany and he is grateful for that. We all know that leaving Real Madrid was not easy for him after having spent half of his life with them. But FC Schalke 04 and the fans I guess know how lucky they are to have him, and continue to show Raul this. He is amazed by the support and respect fans for him. Unlike other soccer players Raul has remained grounded, a true gentleman on and off the field. Up until now, he is one veteran who has played professionally for 19 years and still has not received a red card. One can only respect such an icon and thus the issue of hunger and the campaign against it spearheaded by Raul should more or less get the attention it needs and deserves.

FAO Goodwill Ambassador Raúl Gonzalez Blanco with young footballers in Dakar, after visiting an FAO urban gardening project.

In 2004, he was appointed FAO Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations and since then has been active in the campaigns. This year, the European Commission together with FAO and the European Professional Football Leagues has a campaign against hunger and poverty. It aims to raise awareness of the plight of hunger and the efforts to solve it. The focus of this year’s campaign is on the Sahel region in Africa. 

European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva, left, poses with Spain's soccer player Raul Gonzalez during the launch of the campaign "Football against Hunger", at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Photo: Yves Logghe / AP

The symbolic launch of the campaign took place today at Brussels where Raul as FAO Goodwill Ambassador and as part of the EPFL. It is expected that players from top football clubs including Real Madrid, Schalke, Manchester Utd, AC Milan, Barcelona and others will wear “Sahel Emergency” T-shirts ahead of their matches 31 March - 1 April 2012 to alert millions of fans in stadiums and on television about the life-threatening situation in Africa.

We will focus the campaign on the Sahel region in Africa. I told Raúl about my recent trip to Niger and Chad, where 300,000 kids die from hunger-related diseases each year. Hunger will kill even more children in 2012 as a new food crisis looms. This is why we are acting now to prevent a bigger disaster. In this effort, the help of ambassadors like Raúl, like Hristo Stoichkov, like Roberto Baggio, is indispensable.
Why? Because in the fight against hunger, humanity must win. And who would be better to help us win this fight than the people who live day after day, week after week, winning in football? Raúl has just scored his 400th goal in professional football, so we clearly have a winner on our side. But equally importantly, he is also a fair player, who has never been penalised with a red card in his entire career!
When it comes down to hunger, the world still falls 945 million people short of fair play – this is how many today will go to bed hungry. Sadly, over the last years their numbers have been going up. Raúl and our other ambassadors can help to raise attention to hunger, so we change the game and win the fight against it.