The sporting world has not been immune to the coronavirus outbreak. As competitions and championships are cancelled or postponed, sportsmen and women are redirecting their energy and team spirit to help those most affected by COVID-19.
In Belgium, over fifty football and other sports stars from across the country have joined the citizens’ initiative ‘Souliers du Coeur’ including Eden Hazard and Christian Benteke from the Belgian national football team, as well as Amal Amjahid, Jiu-jitsu champion.
Their goal? To help organisations that look after some of the most vulnerable in society in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes organisations which help the homeless, disabled people and vulnerable children, as well as the elderly.
“I did not hesitate for one second to support the initiative,” Amal told UNRIC. “It became clear that we can only deal with this pandemic through solidarity on the part of each and every one of us in this country.”
More than 40 organisations in Belgium have already benefited from their support, which involves financing and delivering protective equipment as well as purchasing food supplies and material. To date, more than 50,000 masks and protective gloves have already been distributed.
A breath of fresh air
Amal and other sporting professionals involved in the initiative visited Cité Joyeuse in Molenbeek, which looks after 350 children in difficulty (aged from just a few months to 18 years old). They distributed 2,000 masks, gloves and alcohol gel.
“This donation is a breath of fresh air,” said Najad Mohdad, Director of the Cité Joyeuse, which houses orphans, children in care as well as children with behavioural or learning difficulties. “We were worried our children or staff might be contaminated, but now we have a stock of material.”
The sports stars did not simply donate. They also gave their time to the children, who are stuck inside due to the quarantine. Amal gave a Jiu-jitsu demonstration along with her coach, and the football players showed off their skills, all while respecting physical distancing.
“The smiles and joy in the eyes of the children were a priceless reward for us,” Amal said.
Redirecting sporting values
Other sporting initiatives have also sprung up across Belgium. Cycling team Ineos will distribute hand sanitisers in Belgian health centres. The Red Lions and Red Panthers, the men and women’s national hockey teams, lent their support to platform Covid-Solidarity by responding to phone calls from people who are isolated or in difficulty.
For Amal, the solidarity shown by sportsmen and women shows it is possible to overcome the difficulties caused by this crisis which has reached all corners of the world.
“We are capable of channelling sporting values, including team spirit, solidarity and cooperation, away from the pitch or sports hall towards a cause which goes beyond the colour of your skin, the team you belong to or the kit you wear,” she concluded.
Sport and sustainable development
Sport plays a key role in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals.
Its role is highlighted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognises its growing contribution to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes.
It also notes the role of sport in the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as in achieving health, education and social inclusion objectives.