Opinion: Cristiano Ronaldo = 520 Million School Meals

Cristiano Ronaldo, football's world player of the year in 2008, is about to leave British club Manchester United for Spain's Real Madrid, for a record fee of US$130 million. WFP's Greg Barrow reflects on what that figure means in hunger terms.

ROME -- 130 million US dollars is a chunk of cash. We could use it right now to feed 8.6 million hungry mouths in Ethiopia through to the end of the year. These are people whose crops have withered due to drought and who can't buy the food they want at the local markets where it still costs too much.

We really need US$130 million right now in Pakistan where it would cover a gaping hole in our budget and give us the cash we need to feed more than two million people who've had to abandon their homes and flee fighting in the Swat region.

Kaka and Fill the Cup

Kaka holding  WFP fill the cup mug

In 2008, FIFA World Soccer Player of the Year Kaka helped launch WFP's  "Fill the Cup" campaign which aims to raise funds for the millions of children who go to school hungry every day.

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US$130 million is a handy bit of loose change. If you take our operations in Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Guatemala, Liberia and Swaziland, it’s enough to fund them all for a full year – and leave some to spare.

That’s value for money when you consider what it can buy in terms of free school lunches for hungry children, and support for families buckling under the strain of feeding hungry mouths when food prices are high and jobs are hard to come by.

US$130 million can also buy you arguably the best footballer in the world. See YouTube video

Please don't get me wrong.  I admire Cristiano Ronaldo.  He is a footballer who combines grace with almost balletic athleticism, and sheer power on the football pitch.  Anyone who can place a ball on the ground in a Champions League game and swerve it from almost 40 metres past a wall of ten players and a goalie, deserves some credit.  His fans worship him.

But US$130 million?

Good luck to Manchester United who have just sold Ronaldo for this record-breaking transfer fee to the giants of European football, Real Madrid.

It’s money that will further grease the financial wheels of the world’s most beautiful game.  Sadly it won’t be coming our way.

But the good news for the World Food Programme, is that Ronaldo will play in a team alongside our very own hunger ambassador, Kaka, who last week made the move from AC Milan to Real for the relatively modest sum of US$90 million.

There’s real potential for the new “Galacticos” at Real to get together and say something meaningful about the needs of the one billion hungry people around the world.

Kaka has shown already how fame and fortune provide a great platform for raising awareness about hunger and how the World Food Programme can address the growing needs.

Among the ranks of the hungry there are many millions of young boys who dream one day of following in the golden footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. From dusty streets in African villages, to alleyways in the slums of Haiti, football is seen as a passport out of misery.  Those looking for escape will be watching closely.

When those who struggle to

When those who struggle to get enough to eat have any means to forget their troubles and feel happy at least for a while, I'm all for it. Soccer has brought some small joy to these people's lives when there is little to be had. No wonder it's popular. But that $130 million makes you wonder...


You should see how much money

You should see how much money athletes make over here playing various sports like football,baseball and basketball...If they could all put some into a fund to help starving children all over the world,including the USA,it would make the sports world shine...

It could exist a fixed rule

It could exist a fixed rule establishing that if someone is famous and rich, he/she MUST share his/her (material) happiness and success with the poorest in the world... And this could be socially (automatically) demanded and claimed.

It is very sad that there are

It is very sad that there are things in this world we live in that are considered serious and needed full attention is sometimes being pushed aside. $130 millions is a huge chunks of money, millions of hungry people all over the world could have something to bite...childrens in Africa and many other parts of the world has a potential to be one of the best soccer player too-hopefully Ronaldo will share those dollars and inspire those kids in need.

It is a strange world that we

It is a strange world that we won't offer health care to everyone, food to everyone, shelter to everyone when we have the capacity to do so. We will allow everyone a chance at 130 million dollars if they have great feet with a soccer ball and are seen by the right person at the right time.

It is hopeful Ronaldo has joined Kaka but perhaps a greater statement if his fans follow his lead simply giving five dollars each would raise 130 million possibly in one go. It isn't about the power of one as seen in this 130 million, Bill Gates, Micheal Jordan and other amazing 'ones.' Eliminating world hunger is about the power of many supporting many, community. Remembering this, we also remember groups are inspired by individuals...Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr. Who is to say International football can't be the next big player on the humanitarian scene. 2010 Cup in Africa has some amazing possibilities for inspiration.

That said. The answers to the worlds problems aren't as always clear cut as they first seem. Football can be seen as a demon or a tool. One person getting that much money perhaps shows a great desire for teams to win. If we could apply this desire found in pubs around the world at game time to the fierce battle against hunger how much further will we all be? LET'S GO FEED THE HUNGRY! ONLY ONE WORLD! ONLY FULL BELLIES! He...SCORES!

Soccer has the potential to

Soccer has the potential to have such a great influence on people lives - it's often one of the few joys of young kids living in slums and townships and ghettos. It's pity so few of them, like Kaka, are working to change the standard of their lives.

Honestly, my first thought

Honestly, my first thought when I heard this story was that that money could've been spent in so many better ways. If people can spend $130 million on a single soccer player, why can't they give that much when it comes to a cause like world hunger, which causes tens of thousands of people to die every day? Who knows how many more soccer players we could have if those people were given a chance to live their full lives?