On Friday 1st February CAF issued a Press release entitled “Spend it like Beckham: Stars of world charity XI show generosity of football.“ Prompted by David Beckham’s announcement on signing a contract with French team Paris St Germain that he intended to give his entire salary to local charities, we decided to put together an all-star team of the most charitable Premier League football players past and present.
Though this may seem at first glance to be a somewhat frivolous exercise (and I won’t doubt that we had fun) there are good reasons for trumpeting the philanthropy of footballers in this way.
Football players receive fame and adulation for their exploits on the pitch but enjoy a much less gratifying reputation off of the field of play on the whole. Synonymous with ostentatious consumption and bad-boy behaviour their lives are often played out in the media for all to see.
For better or for worse the media attention that football commands is indicative of its influence on society. Whether we think them suitable or not, footballers are role models.
Research by The Children’s Mutual in 2010 revealed that “footballer” was the 4th most desired profession amongst children aged 5 to 7 and the top choice for boys. When asked to identify their role model Premier League football player Steven Gerrard (playing in central midfield in our team) was the 9th most common choice for boys – more than any non fictional person who isn’t a family member.
For those interested in philanthropy in the UK role models are clearly important. CAF UK’s Growing Giving Campaign which focuses on encouraging giving amongst all age groups was conceived in response to a CAF research paper that showed that the proportion of donations made by the under-30s has more than halved since 1980. Luckily footballers may be better placed to be role models in this regard than they are given credit for.
Our Fantasy Premier League Charitable XI identifies a host of star players who challenge the negative stereotype of footballers by their thoughtful and generous philanthropic activities. It is a shame that they are not more vocal about their charitable work and that the media don’t do more to promote the welcome counter-narrative of the socially responsible modern footballer.
The Fantasy Premier League Charitable XI
GK: David James (Formerly Liverpool, Manchester City, Aston Villa, West Ham & Portsmouth): Set up David James Foundation, which combats poverty in Malawi.
LB: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham): Set up the BA32 Foundation to encourage children across the globe to learn more about mathematics, science and technology.
CB: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, Leeds): Set up the Rio Ferdinand Foundation in 2012, to replace the Rio Ferdinand Live the Dream Foundation. The foundation has a broad remit looking to support young people and communities around the world.
CB: Lucas Radebe (formerly of Leeds United): Has acted an ambassador of FIFA for SOS Children’s Villages; he also received the FIFA Fair Play Award in December 2000 for his contribution in ridding soccer of racism as well as for his work with children in South Africa.
RB: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool): Set up the 23 Foundation within the Community Foundation for Merseyside to give grants to local charities in Liverpool.
LM: Dirk Kuyt (formerly of Liverpool): Set up the Dirk Kuyt Foundation to help children in poverty around the world.
CM: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool): Set up his own foundation, which gives grants to children’s charities in Liverpool.
CM: Michael Essien (Formerly of Chelsea): Set up the Michael Essien Foundation funding projects in his home town of Awutu Breku, Ghana.
RM: David Beckham (Formerly of Manchester United): Has pledged to donate his salary at Paris St Germain to charity
FW: Didier Drogba (Formerly of Chelsea): Set up Didier Drogba foundation to raise money to build a hospital in Abdijan, Ivory Coast.
FW: Craig Bellamy (Formerly of Manchester City, Liverpool, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, currently Cardiff) Set up Craig Bellamy foundation to help children in Sierra Leone.
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United): Acts as a UNICEF ambassador
Jason Roberts (Reading) Set up Jason Roberts Foundation, which works in UK and Grenada.
Rory Delap (Barnsley and Stoke City): Completed a 174 mile coast to coast bike ride to raise money for a children’s hospice in Stoke – on – Trent as part of his charity work.
Rob Green (Queens Park Rangers): climbed Kilimanjaro for charity
The computer game, Football Manager, which donates a portion of the price of each game sold to the charity War Child.
Niall Quinn, Former Sunderland striker who donated all the money from his testimonial match (over £1m) to charity.