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Footballers giving back to Africa

Last Updated: 3/28/2010 7:01:57 PM

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Often footballers get a bad press with tales of financial and social excesses but behind the tabloid tales they are footballers giving back and we look at the work of six of them. ....

Footballers giving back to Africa
Footballers giving back to Africa

CRAIG BELLAMY Manchester City & Wales

In 2007 Craig Bellamy visited a friend in Sierra Leone, best known for its ‘blood diamonds’ and a nine-year civil war. Despite the poverty and desperation he saw the potential for a project that could offer hope. The Craig Bellamy Foundation was born with the aim of inspiring personal and social development through the power of sport.

The foundation now boasts a network of nationwide football development leagues with 1,600 registered members, aged 10-14 in order to encourage school attendance players have to be going to school. Further leagues for girls and disabled youngsters are being planned. Alongside the league will be a state of the art football academy designed to offer the best in coaching and education. 

NWANKWO KANU Portsmouth & Nigeria

Nwankwo Kanu’s highly successful career almost ended just as he was getting established. By the age of 20, he had won the Champions League with Ajax and an Olympic gold medal with Nigeria. Further honours beckoned as he joined Inter Milan in 1996, but a routine medical revealed a faulty aortic valve in his heart. Surgery may have saved his life, but certainly saved his career.

So grateful was he that he set up the Kanu Heart Foundation, using his fame and wealth to provide life-saving heart surgery for underprivileged African children and young adults. So far, Kanu’s foundation has funded over 400 heart operations. “I recognise that I have been blessed not only in my football career, but also with the gift of a second chance in life,” said Kanu. 

MARCEL DESAILLY Chelsea & France

Marcel Desailly, though born in Accra, Ghana, was raised in France by French adoptive parents. Having retired from football, he has now made his home in his birth country, where he is closely involved in a number of charitable projects. He is an official ambassador for OrphanAid Africa, taking a close interest in a facility OA has set up outside Accra supported by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Here youngsters learn sporting skills and life skills hand in hand. Desailly is keen to point out that this is not a hothouse to raise young football stars for Europe “What I see is missing here in Ghana is facilities for sport, not for an academy, but for the community.”

DIDIER DROGBA Chelsea & Côte d’Ivoire

In January 2007 Didier Drogba was appointed a goodwill ambassador by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) joining soccer legends Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane. Drogba has a particular concern for his home continent, Africa. “I don’t forget my origins,” he said. “I have been given opportunities to succeed in life, but I constantly think about the ones who did not have this chance. We all need to contribute to help defeat poverty.” The Chelsea striker is also founder of the Didier Drogba Foundation which addresses healthcare and education issues in Côte d’Ivoire. Drogba recently pledged a £3m donation to fund the building of a hospital in Abidjan.

LUCAS RADEBE Leeds United & South Africa

Lucas Radebe is FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages, an international social development organisation active in the field of children’s rights. SOS Children’s Villages works in 132 countries, providing a stable family environment for children without parental care or whose families are are in difficulty.

PATRICK VIEIRA Manchester City & France

Patrick Vieira is one of the high profile supporters of the Diambars Institute, a pioneering academy providing African boys with a first class education and a chance of making it in professional football. Born in Senegal, Viera wanted to give something back to the country of his birth. Founded by Bernard Lama and Jimmy Adjovi-Boco, team-mates at French clubs Lille and RC Lens, Diambars was launched in Saly, Senegal in 2003. Football is used as the driving force for education at the institute. Lama says that while the aim is that at least 20% of Diambars’ students will go on to become professional football players. “We want to guarantee that those who don’t can still become champions in life."

© Developments magazine

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