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FIFA Ambassador Eto’o in health drive on African continent

Former Cameroonian super striker Samuel Fills Eto’o and the FIFA Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak embarked on health campaigns on the African continent first with tours in Sierra Leone and Ghana then in East Africa (Kenya).

FIFA recently launched the “FIFA 11 for Health” a campaign targeted towards promoting long term health conditions.

The campaign was brought on board at a time another emergency campaign “11 against Ebola” was launched in West Africa at the peak of the Ebola epidemic,

Samuel Eto’o interacted with vulnerable communities, especially children affected by the Ebola epidemic as well as visiting the Grafton orphanage in Freetown, which takes care of very young children who have lost their entire families to the Ebola virus.

He also visited local schools in Sierra Leone and Ghana to communicate and promote the “FIFA 11 for Health” messages.

The four-time African footballer of the year was one of the first players to support the “FIFA 11 for Health” programme , which harnesses the power of football and scientific research to inspire girls and boys to lead healthy lifestyles.

The programme seeks to improve children’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around vital health issues such as HIV, TB, malaria, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. It has been a success in more than 20 countries around the world since its introduction ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

On the project Eto’o noted:

I’m excited to be home in Africa and proud to see what my brothers in Sierra Leone have achieved in successfully fighting against the Ebola virus. Health is the most important thing in life, with health and a strong dream you can achieve anything in life. Football has an important role to play in educating young girls and boys to live a healthy lifestyle.

FIFA Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak said;

It has been an emotional experience witnessing the positive impact that FIFA’s ‘11 against Ebola’ campaign has had on the local communities here in Sierra Leone. When football talks, people tend to listen. It is only thanks to the close partnership between the world’s best footballers, the WHO, the World Bank, the Sierra Leone Football Association and the Sierra Leone government that FIFA has been able to contribute to the fight against the virus. A healthy society is fundamental for the wellbeing of a country and we will continue with our objectives by bringing ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ to Sierra Leone and implementing the fourth stage of the programme in Ghana.”

The “11 against Ebola” campaign was put together last year by FIFA with the support of the World Bank and WHO, using the voices of world-famous players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba and Neymar to inform the local population about important measures that could be taken in order to avoid spreading the Ebola virus.

After the visit to Sierra Leone focusing on the Ebola response, the delegation visited Ghana where the longer-term “FIFA 11 for Health” campaign has been running successfully for three years.

Prince Pambo, FIFA’s national project leader in Ghana who is ready to launch the fourth stage of the programme, explained: “I’m excited to welcome FIFA and Samuel to Ghana to witness the implementation of the programme. 300 schools across Ghana with 600 teachers and about 20,000 students have gone through the training programme.”

The FIFA delegation also visited East Africa supervise the “FIFA 11 for Health” programmes in Kenya, meeting various key stakeholders from the government, local football associations and the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) with the aim of securing widespread support for FIFA’s vital health promotion programme.

Additional Report by

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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