Now the football season is over, interesting debates and incidents are minimal. Twitter is a hotbed for transfer nonsense, instigated by bored folk hunting for new followers to spew their in the know crap to. Thus, I decided that this summer I shall do a series on football’s most charitable players (in no particular order).
It is certainly an interesting topic and one that I’m sure many will prefer over meaningless transfer gossip. My opener will be Clarence Seedorf – a man we all greatly admire as a footballer and hopefully after reading this, as a person.
A playing career which started before I was even born – in 1992 – would see Mr. Seedorf become one of Europe’s most successful players. His tally for club honours is 20 (twenty!) which averages out to a trophy in every one of his 20 seasons as a player, while his individual honours are hardly scarce. He was named in Real Madrid’s team of the century and also named by Pele as part of the FIFA 100, a list of the 100 greatest living players. Seedorf became the first ever footballer to win the Champions League on four occasions with three different teams; Ajax in 1995, Real Madrid in 1998 and AC Milan in 2003 and 2007. A tremendous achievement which will struggle to be beaten.
Aside from his remarkable playing career, Seedorf has invested heavily in charity. In 2005, Champions for Children was established, which is aimed to improve the lives of children in developing countries often by the means of sport and education.
Witnessing the famine that strangled Ethiopia in the nineteen- eighties, when I was just a child, had a profound effect on me and sparked my desire to give and literally shaped my destiny. With this experience as a catalyst and seeing all the suffering around the globe, I made a vow in my youth to help hurting people and make a contribution to my world in as many ways as I could. Improving the quality of life through health and education is my vision.
Seedorf was born in Suriname, a developing country in South America. Around half a million people are populated in and around the capital city, Parmaribo, yet there are just 4 hospitals. Champions for Children invested €110,000 in a neonatal respiratory care unit in order to provide care for newborns with respiratory deficiencies.
Due to his strong connection with his place of birth, Seedorf also invested €250,000 in the set up of the Para Junior Football League. Composed of 32 teams with players aged 9-15 years old, the project is aimed to “promote integrity and fair play” amongst the youth, giving them an alternative to life on the streets.
My dream has always been to give back to this world and especially to children. By supporting education through sport, we can help build a brighter future and teach authentic life skills and community values.
Since its foundation, Champions for Children has completed six projects in countries all over the world, such as Cambodia, Kenya, Brazil and of course Suriname. The charity invested €50,000 in sports facilities in seven schools in the Phnom Pehn district in Cambodia – one of Asia’s poorest countries. Similar to the Para Football League, this project aims to provide young people with an alternative to life on the streets. Drug use is prevalent in Cambodia, and Champions for Children believe the investment in sports facilities is the best deterrent.
Moreover, the charity provided €150,000 for the construction of a secondary school in one of the largest slums in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. This provides over 250 thirteen to seventeen year olds the access to basic education, which they were devoid of beforehand.
Champions for Children then invested €50,000 in the construction of a sports and recreation centre in the favelas of Salvador De Bahia, Brazil’s third largest city. Here, poverty is strife with almost 50% of the city’s 3.5 million population living in ‘structurally precarious’ housing without sanitation. Gun crime is commonplace and the city is in desperate need of support. Thus, Seedorf’s charity helped the government build the sports centre, which over 400 children utilize on a daily basis. Seedorf’s vision of “improving the quality of life through health and education” is clearly one of substance.
Finally, Seedorf invested €80,000 in the construction of ‘The Clarence Seedorf Playground’ in Stedenwijk, Holland, where he grew up. This is a poor area and the playground – 6,400 sq. mt. long – aims to support the development of young people by teaching them life skills and values through sport.
I not only want this playground to be a facility where kids can play sports but, also want it to be a place where kids develop their social and emotional skills.
Clarence Seedorf is now a free agent having left AC Milan, and if that marks the end of his remarkable playing career then I sincerely hope to see him move into management or coaching – there aren’t many better role models.
It’s players like him who ensure that football, engulfed by corruption and avarice, still has the power to change lives, as Mandela once said.