WFP has congratulated its newest Ambassador against Hunger, Brazilian and Barcelona star Ronaldinho on winning one of soccer’s most prestigious prizes – the 50th European Player of the Year award.
The 25-year-old striker, who scooped the “Ballon D’Or” in Paris on Monday night, now holds all three of the most important individual awards in soccer; he is also the FIFPro World Player of the Year and the 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year.
“We are tremendously proud that a member of the WFP team has won the highest accolade available to a professional soccer player,” said WFP Executive Director James Morris.
“Off the field, Ronaldinho is playing a key role in our efforts to defeat hunger, including in Guatemala.”
I grew up with children from very poor families, and I’ve seen the effect hunger can have
Ronaldinho, WFP Ambassador
Last month, Hurricane Stan blew away the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of Guatemala’s poorest communities. Landslides and floods killed over 600 people - 800 are still missing and 3,755 houses were washed away.
With only US$6 million of the US$14 million required to feed nearly 300,000 people, many Guatemalans are facing a hungry Christmas.
Match against hunger
“Ronaldinho is helping WFP on the frontline of the crisis by helping us raise awareness around the world. With everyone’s support, we can win this match against hunger. It isn’t only champions who can help rebuild the future for those who have lost everything,” said Morris.
Ronaldinho, a key member of the Brazil team that will defend the World Cup in Germany next summer and the inspiration behind Barcelona’s Spanish league title last season, became a WFP Ambassador against Hunger last August.
As a hero of Brazil’s “favelas” or shanty towns, who grew up in an impoverished quarter of Porto Alegre in the south of the country, WFP believes that Ronaldinho is uniquely qualified to speak on behalf of hungry and poverty-stricken children.
“I grew up with children from very poor families, and I’ve seen the effect hunger can have,” Ronaldinho said at his launch in Barcelona.
“I was lucky - soccer rescued my family from poverty. Now I want to help WFP rescue other kids who aren’t so fortunate.”
Ronaldinho is one of several international sports stars who are donating their time and celebrity status to help WFP defeat global hunger, including his Brazil soccer teammate Kaká, currently playing for AC Milan in Italy’s Serie A; marathon record-holder Paul Tergat of Kenya; cricket’s record-breaking wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka; and former Rugby World Cup-winning captains Nick Farr-Jones of Australia and New Zealand’s David Kirk.