Sports for Social Good: Top Football Teams Engaged in International Aid Activities

    An FC Barcelona jersey features the logo of the United Nations Children's Fund. Photo by: John Cartal / CC BY-NC-ND

    “More than a goal. End polio.”

    That slogan will soon appear in in-stadium advertisements of Fútbol Club Barcelona in line with its three-year partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to draw attention to the promise of vaccines in ending polio. FC Barcelona is also expected to engage its millions of Facebook and Twitter followers to encourage them to join the crusade against the disease.

    “We have the chance to score a big win against polio, but we need loud and passionate voices to join the fight,” Bill Gates said July 28, when he and his wife along with FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell and Manager Josep Guardiola launched their joint campaign in Washington, D.C. “FC Barcelona’s commitment to using sport for social good will help us rally support for vaccines and end polio once and for all.”

    FC Barcelona has been involved in many global aid activities, just like many of its peers in the sport. In fact, six of the world’s 10 richest football clubs, including FC Barcelona, either have partnered with relief groups or initiated programs to help underprivileged people overseas. Here they are, and listed according to Forbes’ ranking for 2011:

    • Real Madrid Club de Fútbol (2): The Realmadrid Foundation has opened schools in developing countries such as Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Morocco and Uruguay to integrate children through sports.

    • FC Barcelona (5): Aside from its joint initiative with the Gates Foundation, the club is cooperating with UNICEF, agreeing to use “the social assets of the club in support of a global movement for education and sport that will deliver tangible results for children.” The team’s uniform currently sports the UNICEF logo.

    • Chelsea Football Club (7): The club has donated to Right to Play programs in Uganda and east and southern Africa for children facing poverty and war, with a focus on conflict resolution, HIV/AIDS prevention, gender inclusion and early child development.

    Many other notable sport teams are engaged in charitable activities. Often, these teams focus on areas closer to home; U.S. baseball and American football teams, for instance, tend to engage in their local communities. Many soccer teams in Europe, however, go beyond the region’s borders, acknowledging the enormeous global reach of the sport and the fact that many of their professional players hail from developing countries especially in Africa and Latin America.

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    About the author

    • Eliza Villarino

      Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.