Sunday 26 February 2023, 18:00

FIFA Legends bring smiles to faces on Paris hospital visit

  • Four FIFA Legends paid a visit to a children’s hospital in Paris

  • Football champions put a smile on the faces of sick youngsters

  • Djorkaeff: It was important for the football world to show some support to these young people, who are real heroes

The eyes of the football world will be on Paris on Monday, when the French capital hosts The Best FIFA Football Awards™ 2022 and tribute will be paid to the outstanding players in the women’s and men’s game last year. Sunday saw a different kind of tribute at the Robert Debré University Hospital in Paris, where four FIFA Legends dropped by to meet with some of its young patients: ex-France international and Senior Football Advisor at FIFA Youri Djorkaeff, Italy idol Alessandro Del Piero, Cameroon icon Geremi Njitap, and former Morocco attacking midfielder Houssine Kharja. Having entertained the fans for many years with their skills on the ball, the legendary quartet brought smiles to the faces of their young audience for the day. They kicked off by spending time with around 20 children confined to side rooms in the cardiology, nephrology and gastroenterology wards before meeting up in one of the hospital’s common rooms with another 20 patients from the child psychiatry unit.

A view of toys during a Legends Hospital visit at Hôpital Robert Debré

Hope springs eternal

“It was an emotional day,” said Djorkaeff, who shared his memories of France’s FIFA World Cup™ win in 1998. “We visited the children and their parents, and the doctors and nurses looking after them. We spent some time with them, brought a smile to their faces and told them some well-known football stories.” “Today was really touching,” commented Del Piero, a world champion himself with La Nazionale in 2006. “It was a sad sight to begin with, because you’re faced with all these children who are fighting for their health. But it didn’t take us long to realise that there’s so much more to it than that, because you can see the strength, hope and belief in them and the smile that they have for you. I feel so blessed. I was so happy to be there and to spend time with them, talk to them and share some experiences.” While the children will each have their own memories of a special day, they all enjoyed the opportunity to forget their troubles for a few hours, share a smile with the four champions, and listen to their stories and words of encouragement.

A general view during a Legends Hospital visit at Hôpital Robert Debré

Absolute heroes

“It was a great evening and a terrific initiative,” said Geremi, a two-time CAF Africa Cup of Nations winner with the Indomitable Lions. “We have to come and encourage these children, who put up with so much. The most important thing is to make them smile.” The Cameroonian star also had a word for the people supporting the hospital’s young patients: “We have to give our encouragement to the parents, who are by their sides and with them every day, and to the doctors.” A two-time UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Geremi especially enjoyed fielding questions from his young audience. “I loved it,” he smiled. “You could see that they were interested and that they love football, even if they didn’t know some of us, which is only to be expected with some of the younger ones. I’m delighted to have taken part in this initiative.” The visit allowed the youngsters to forget about the illnesses they are fighting, at least for a little while. One thing they will never forget, however, is the willingness of the four stars to spend some valuable time with them. “It was important for us to be there and to offer the support of the football world and the FIFA Legends to all these children and their parents, who are real heroes,” said Djorkaeff.