NEW YORK: Côte d’Ivoire soccer star Didier Drogba, currently top scorer in the English Premiership and the European Champions League, has become the latest football great to shoot for the United Nations, where he will seek to score a different kind of goal in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The UN Development Program (UNDP) has appointed Mr. Drogba, who plays Chelsea F.C. of the English Premier League, a Goodwill Ambassador, joining soccer legends Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane in the fight against poverty, one of the eight MDGs adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 that seek to slash a host of social ills by 2015.
“I don’t forget my origins, Drogba said at a ceremony in Geneva yesterday. “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.
Drogba will work with UNDP to spur action at all levels of society in pursuit of the MDGs, with a particular focus on Africa.
“We’re very pleased to have Didier on our side, working to help countries reach the MDGs, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said.
“Greater recognition of the wide range of serious challenges we face in Africa and around the world is an important part of meeting those challenges, and Didier will offer tremendous help in raising awareness.
Mr. Drogba has previously collaborated with several charities and organizations and has long been active in mobilizing support for the eradication of poverty. He has also participated in several HIV/AIDS campaigns, and will continue to focus on this issue, and its implications for human rights and women’s empowerment, all of which are part of the MDGs.
“Gender equality must be promoted, and women and girls are at a special risk, he said. “Male attitudes and behaviour need to change, and as a man and a role model for many young boys in Africa I will do my best to promote the right messages to other men and boys to stop the pandemic.
He will also support UNDP work in conflict prevention and recovery.
Born in Abidjan in1978, Mr. Drogba spent his childhood in his native Côte d Ivoire and his adopted country, France. He led Côte d Ivoire to its first-ever World Cup final in 2006.
Other UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors include South African Nobel Literature Prize winner Nadine Gordimer, Japanese actress Misako Kono and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway.
Other UN agencies have also joined with athletes and sports organizations to get their message across and raise funds. Last autumn, the UN Children’s Fund teamed up with the European Swimming League (Ligue Européene de Natation – LEN) in “a race against time to prevent deaths from unclean water.
UN Food and Agriculture Organization has appointed Spain’s national soccer team captain Raúl Gónzales as a Goodwill Ambassador to combat hunger and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has teamed up with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the governing body of women’s tennis, to promote gender equality.
The UN World Food Program last year launched the “Cricket Against Hunger partnership with the England and Wales cricket team to draw attention to the plight of the 400 million chronically hungry children around the world, and has similar fund- and awareness-raising arrangements with the International Rugby Board as well as with individual stars from the worlds of soccer, American football, marathon running and Formula One auto racing.