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FIFA, WHO extend collaboration to promote health through football

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) and World Health Organisation (WHO) have agreed to use the power of football to promote healthy lifestyles and equal access to health services worldwide.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said this during the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The report said that Ghebreyesus and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, signed a four-year extension to their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which has been in place since 4 October, 2019.

“Health and football are perfect teammates, promoting healthy lifestyles, safe stadiums and the physical and mental benefits of physical activity are among the many health goals WHO is proud to keep scoring with FIFA for the next four years.

“WHO’s partnership with FIFA has already succeeded to share evidence-based messages to help people of all ages lead healthier and safer lives through the power of football and sport.

“WHO looks forward to continuing this journey,” Ghebreyesus said.

In his speech, Infantino said that they are proud to have signed and renewed the MoU with the organisation.

“We are proud to continue our relationship to pass important physical and mental health messages through our global football audience.

“I extend my gratitude to Ghebreyesus and his wonderful team, to everyone that helps in the healthcare sector – from doctors to nurses to healthcare professionals and health ministers, and to everyone who contributes to make our lives better.

“Reflecting on the past four years, Ghebreyesus and I felt that in a world that was more and more divided, may be if the organisation and FIFA join forces, we can achieve something.

“We can have even just a little impact to make our lives a little bit better.

“Since 2019, we have worked together with our colleagues at the organisation to try to use the impact of football, that helps drive health for one and all,” Infantino said.

According to him, during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, FIFA and WHO launched the “Football Unites the World campaign.”

He said that it was supported by Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Hassan Al-Haydos, Karim Benzema, Lucy Bronze, Giulia Gwinn, Kaká, Robert Lewandowski and Carli Lloyd.

According to him, other supporters are Édouard Mendy and Emmanuel Petit as well as by two of the WHO’s Goodwill Ambassadors for Sport and Health, namely Alisson Becker and Didier Drogba.

He said such illustrated football’s unrivalled ability to bring people together.

Infantino said that the Qatar Ministry of Public Health, FIFA and WHO collaborated on a number of initiatives to promote the importance of access to physical and mental health for all.

He said that health and well-being were prioritised through the staging of the tournament, and included several initiatives such as, “The implementation of mass gathering and surveillance strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

“Enhanced policies to protect people from the harms of tobacco, including making stadium seating areas smoke-free.

“And healthy food options at all 64 matches with healthy and vegetarian food reaching a 30 per cent quota across all FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums.

“Thus, showing that healthy, sustainable and high-quality food environments are possible at major sport events,” he said.

According to him, for three years, the two organisations have also championed the need to #BeActive to promote regular physical activity.

He said that WHO recommended that healthy adults do a minimum of 30 minutes physical activity per day, while children should do a minimum of 60 minutes daily.

Infantino said, however, that current WHO data has reported that 80 per cent of adolescents are not getting enough daily exercise.

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