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17th Dec 2018

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A touch of football at this year's G20 summit

  • FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressed the G20 leaders and placed football at their disposal as a powerful tool to help them address the challenges facing the world today (Photo: Getty/FIFA)

This year, for the first time in the history of the G20, the leaders of the world's most influential economies talked about football.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressed the G20 leaders and placed football at their disposal as a powerful tool to help them address the challenges facing the world today.

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There are at least five areas where football can convey a message of hope and be used as a powerful tool:

Firstly, football means economic growth and contributes to infrastructure development: over the past decade, the football industry has grown twice as fast as the global economy in a time of economic crisis.

With a gross output of $200bn and a gross value added of $130bn, the football economy is equivalent to the economy of a medium- to large-sized country.

Today, 70 percent of the global football economy is generated only in Europe, so the potential worldwide is tremendous, if the right decisions are taken.

Regarding infrastructure, with World Cup revenues, FIFA is able to invest nearly $600m every year in new pitches and football facilities all around the world, including in many developing countries, all for the benefit of our youth.

Secondly, football means education: academic research shows that when football is part of the school curriculum, absenteeism goes down and student participation goes up.

In order to make better use of football's power in that respect, next year, FIFA is launching the Football for Schools Programme.

Through this programme, $100 million will be invested in schools, offering an online digital platform and distributing 11 million balls to more than 700 million children.

This project is not about football skills, but about life skills and true values taught to children using the power of football in the classroom.

Thirdly, football means health: it is well known that childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century.

When children play football at a young age, they are more likely to stay active later on and less likely to develop obesity, diabetes, depression or cardiovascular diseases.

This is why the European Union and Australia have already launched innovative programmes to promote health through football.

Fourthly, football means gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.

Football has too often overlooked half the world's population, and the new FIFA has committed to changing that: by 2026, FIFA aims to double the number of female players to 60 million.

Furthermore, within the FIFA administration, women are encouraged and empowered.

The FIFA Women's World Cup in France next year will also be used to strengthen this message as FIFA aims to attract more than one billion viewers.

This effort is already bearing some fruit.

For example, Saudi Arabia has started opening its stadiums to women, and in India and several African countries, the introduction of football clinics that also address violence against women has led to significant improvements in attitudes towards women and girls.

More needs to be done, but the first signs are already very encouraging.

Finally, football can bring communities together, build bridges and connect people, regardless of race, religion and social or economic background.

The language of football is universal, and the feeling of having something in common is invaluable especially in today's world, where for so many migrants, refugees and immigrants the new reality is daunting.

For all of the above reasons, football was a key player at this year's G20 summit, serving as a credible and reliable partner to the leaders of the world and as a powerful tool to help them build a better future.

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver

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