Football champion Didier Drogba has been named World Health Organization (WHO) ambassador for sport and health.
Mr Drogba, known for his football stint at Chelsea and a two-time African Footballer of the Year (2006 and 2009) has a long history in various health campaigns including healthy lifestyles, prevention and control of malaria and HIV.
Drogba who is from Côte d’Ivoire will help WHO publicise the organization’s guidelines on the benefits of physical activity and other healthy lifestyles and will highlight the value of sport, especially for young people.
The striker during his ambassadorship announcement event at WHO’s Geneva headquarters said: “I am honoured to team up with the World Health Organization and support its work to help people reach the highest level of health possible, especially young people in all countries.
“I have benefited first hand from the power of sports to lead a healthy life and I am committed to working with WHO to share such gains worldwide.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, praised Didier Drogba not only as a football legend but also as a committed advocate for community health and sustainable development, adding that his support for WHO can help reduce the increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by promoting healthy lifestyles, including the benefits of physical activity and exercise, for all people.
“Didier is a proven champion and game-changer both on and off the pitch,” said Dr Tedros. “We are pleased to have him playing on our team, and helping communities worldwide reach and score goals through sports for their physical and mental health and well-being.
“He will also support the mobilization of the international community to promote sports as an essential means for improving the physical, mental health and social well-being of all people, including in helping COVID-19 recovery efforts.”
Current global estimates show that four in five adolescents and one in four adults do not get enough physical activity.
Increased physical inactivity also has a negative impact on health systems, the environment, economic development, community well-being, and quality of life.
Regular physical activity, including exercise, helps reduce blood pressure and the risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer (including breast cancer and colon cancer).
Drogba’s announcement as WHO Goodwill Ambassador came during the launching ceremony of the “Healthy 2022 World Cup – Creating Legacy for Sport and Health” a partnership between Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, WHO and world football’s governing body, FIFA.
Didier joins other WHO ambassadors, including Brazilian footballer Alisson Becker; Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and a three-time mayor of New York City; Cynthia Germanotta, president of the Born This Way Foundation; and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
In his role, Drogba will reinforce and disseminate the WHO public health guidelines and messages for practising physical activity, adopting a healthy lifestyle and highlighting the value of sport as a source of life skills, especially for young people. Drogba has long been involved in various health campaigns such as healthy lifestyle, antimalarial and HIV.
Drogba was officially appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Sport and Health on October 18, 2021.