Monday 04 October 2021, 12:00

FIFA and WHO mark two-year anniversary of MoU

  • Power of football used to promote health throughout the world

  • Historic Memorandum of Understanding signed on 4 October 2019

  • Partnership has launched several key health campaigns

During the most challenging period for global health in living memory, FIFA and the World Health Organization (WHO) today mark the two-year anniversary of a strategic collaboration aimed at promoting and protecting the physical and mental health of people worldwide.

The signing of a four-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2019 kick-started a range of joint initiatives, from promoting physical activity and addressing mental health challenges, to advocating for adherence to public health measures to equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. FIFA and WHO have joined forces on several occasions to spread essential messages and advice on how to remain healthy during - and beyond – the COVID-19 pandemic at FIFA events.

Unified in this shared commitment to promote health for all, FIFA and WHO have harnessed the power of football – and FIFA competitions – to extend support, through campaigns and resources, to people in every part of the world.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the partnership with WHO had become a landmark alliance for sport and health. “Our important connection with WHO took on an even greater importance as the pandemic struck our global communities. It has been a privilege for FIFA to have contributed to critical – and often lifesaving – health-promotion advice around the world, through our campaigns and using the power of football and FIFA competitions. I extend my sincerest thanks to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and all at WHO for their incredible commitment to making our world a safer, healthier place and look forward to future collaborations.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “The partnership between FIFA and WHO has leveraged the power of football to help people be healthy and safe worldwide. WHO looks forward to securing further success with FIFA in our common drive to promote and protect the health of all people for years to come.”

Reminding us of how everyone has felt the impact of the pandemic, including top football stars, world leaders and communities all over the world, FIFA Legends and current players reinforced essential advice on how to stay safe from their living rooms.

'Pass the message to kick out coronavirus' was the first of several campaigns FIFA and WHO have collaborated on, promoting five key steps for people to follow to protect their health in line with WHO guidance, focused on hand washing, coughing etiquette, not touching your face, physical distance and staying at home if feeling unwell. Champions including Alisson Becker, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Health Promotion, Lionel Messi, Gary Lineker and FIFA Foundation CEO Youri Djorkaeff joined the campaign.

This was followed by #BeActive, an initiative designed to encourage everyone to maintain an active lifestyle, adapting their physical exercise routines to the restrictions and quarantines introduced by global authorities. A shared project with the United Nations (UN), FIFA and WHO launched the campaign on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (6 April 2020), with top footballers such as Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Liverpool FC’s Trent Alexander-Arnold lending their support. In response to the alarming spike in domestic violence against women and girls during the pandemic, FIFA, WHO and the European Commission launched #SafeHome, a video campaign offering practical advice and support and signposting to national helplines around the world, with support from the African Union. FIFA Legends Kelly Smith, Vítor Baía and David James were among those lending their voices to the hugely important cause. As the medical response effort to the pandemic evolved, and vaccines developed for use, FIFA and WHO collaborated further – this time to promote equitable access to vaccinations which would change the landscape significantly, among other critical resources. Promoted at the FIFA Club World Cup™ in 2020, #ACTogether saw former England star and FIFA Legend Michael Owen calling for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, oxygen and other life-saving tools.

FIFA and WHO’s current campaign, galvanised through the partnership established through the MoU, is also the most comprehensive to date. #ReachOut aims to raise awareness of mental health conditions through the remarkable, shared reflections and experiences from FIFA Legends and campaign contributors, with practical advice for those who may be affected and signposting to support agencies. In addition to special regional versions in partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Commission, those supporting the cause have included former English Premier League star Marvin Sordell, England legend Fara Williams, French Football Association General Secretary Laura Georges, Belgium national team head coach Roberto Martinez, and mental health advocate Teresa Enke, whose late husband, former German national-team goalkeeper Robert Enke, died from suicide, among many others. The campaign was recently promoted at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021™ in Lithuania and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2021™ in Moscow. With the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ set to kick off on 30 November, the partnership between FIFA and WHO will see further collaborations this year to spread key health promotion messages, using the power of football.