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International Day of Charity: Celebrating the selfless work of players off the pitch


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Distelzola WEB
  • 5 September is United Nations’ International Day of Charity
  • Footballers around the world have displayed selfless acts of kindness
  • FIFPRO profiles six community champions making a difference through their charity work

5 September marks the United Nations’ International Day of Charity, celebrating volunteerism and philanthropy.

Away from the pitch, many footballers around the world have displayed selfless acts of charity to help contribute to a more inclusive and resilient society.

Take a look at six players who have shared their charitable stories with FIFPRO – from supporting underprivileged youths via foundations to having charity clauses in their contract to help those less fortunate.

Sung-yueng Ki

Former Korea Republic captain Sung-yueng Ki was given the 2022 FIFPRO Player Impact Award for his work with World Vision – a charity he has been working with for nearly 15 years, helping underprivileged people in Asia and Africa.

The FC Seoul midfielder has donated money to help build schools and medical centres in Africa, as well as covering the costs of medical bills for people who were in critical condition in hospital. He recently embarked on a new project supporting 30 young footballers in Korea who come from challenging backgrounds.

"They range from 10 to 18-years-old and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I donate between $4,000 and $5,000 a month to help support them – which helps buy food, accommodation and equipment for football – and will last for the next five years," said Ki.

"If these players get a professional contract and end up succeeding in football, then that’s great. But it’s not the most important thing – what’s more important is that they succeed as human beings; that they have the motivation to chase their dream, that they give everything to become a better person."

Sung-yueng Ki: "My goal is to help people"

Santiago Mele

Since 2020, Uruguayan goalkeeper Santiago Mele has had a performance-based charity clause in his contract – meaning the more saves he makes on the pitch, the more he is helping those less fortunate.

Mele started doing this with current parent club Plaza Colonia, after returning from Turkey, where the charity clause was triggered for every penalty saved; then when at Union Santa Fe on loan, a donation was made for every five clean sheets. Now on loan at Atletico Junior, Mele also has a verbal agreement with the club where a board member also has to carry out the charity actions alongside him.

Thanks to his charity clause, Mele and some of his Union team-mates donated professional balls and equipment to Los Buhos, a team representing the province in the Argentinean blind football championship.

"It was a very exciting day, and I had an incredible time with them,” said Mele. "It's a way to get out of the football bubble, and to get perspective on the fact that no matter how much you dedicate your all to being a footballer, winning or losing is not the most important thing in the world. This is a very competitive profession, and can be a very selfish one. Being of service and being in contact with reality is gratifying in a different and more fulfilling way."

Santiago Mele: "I want my saves to have a positive social impact"

Marshall Munetsi

Zimbabwe international Marshall Munetsi donates 10 percent of his earnings to his foundation, which helps provide an education for underprivileged children in Zimbabwe.

His club Stade de Reims introduced a clause in Munetsi’s contract that would see the Ligue 1 side donate a further €100 for every kilometre ran by the 26-year-old during play – thus the more Munetsi runs on the pitch, the more he is raising for underprivileged children. The contract lasts until 2027.

"Currently, the Marshall Munetsi Foundation supports around 60 children in Zimbabwe that otherwise just wouldn’t have access to an education," said Munetsi.

"The core value of our foundation is to give as many underprivileged children as possible access to a better education and ensure that young kids have the freedom to make decisions, not from a point of desperation, but a position of strength."

Marshall Munetsi: "The more I run, the more we raise for underprivileged children"

Redouan El Yaakoubi

Redouan El Yaakoubi was last year given the FIFPRO Player Activism Award for his work supporting children growing up in a challenging environment.

Through his foundation Durf te Dromen (Dare to Dream), the Excelsior Rotterdam captain is helping more than 1,000 children. The 27-year-old created a special program to help them develop socially and emotionally, while also offering extra tutoring.

"When I was 16-years old, I started doing volunteer work in my neighbourhood, mostly dealing with youths, and raising funds for the Red Cross or Salvation Army. After a couple of years, I considered starting my own initiative. I wanted to do something for all those children who were experiencing the same things I had experienced," said El Yaakoubi.

"I wanted to offer them a different perspective and wanted to show that, with the right approach, they can develop their talent and they can graduate."

Redouan El Yaakoubi: "We're making a difference in the lives of children and their parents"

Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire

Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire won the FIFPRO Player Voice Award for empowering girls and women through her foundation.

The former Nigeria international had to overcome significant obstacles before becoming a professional footballer because of her gender and, since retiring, has engaged in charity work to advance the lives of girls and women in Africa – providing tools through football.

"The foundation is a way of promoting equality, health and supporting young girls to have the right to play sport," said Yusuf-Aromire.

"We organise a conference for young footballers every year. I invite ex-internationals, so the players can see role models. I involve lawyers to let players know their rights. There are activists that come to talk about sexual abuse, violence and other important things."

Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire: "Football has no gender"

Distel Zola  

Former DR Congo international Distel Zola joined World Food Programme in May to promote better nutrition in the country. The 34-year-old ended his playing career to concentrate on the Banazola Foundation that he started with his wife Lorraine Lemaire, to give Congolese children from deprived backgrounds a better future.

Through his foundation, Zola’s charity work sees him give back to underprivileged communities in Kinshasa – from renovating schools to teaching children about nutrition.

"All the opportunities I have had, I had because of football," said Zola. "I want Banazola to give back to my community and to give opportunities to young people, to give them the tools to develop and make the best of their lives.

"Maybe one day they can be a superstar or a normal person. It does not matter, as long as they are happy."

In our #CommunityChampion series, we highlight footballers’ charitable activities that help impact the lives of others. Discover more HERE.

Since 2008, FIFPRO has honoured professional footballers who have made a significant contribution to charity through the Merit Awards.

Distel Zola: "I want to give opportunities to young people"