Some of football’s biggest stars joined forces with grassroots players from around Europe in the advertisements for #EqualGame, UEFA’s new RESPECT social responsibility campaign, which positively promotes inclusion, diversity and accessibility in football.
Ada Hegerberg, Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo feature together in two new videos, with an extended version premiering on Monday 11 September and an abbreviated TV spot making its first appearance on 12 September for Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League matches.
The TV-spot will be broadcast throughout the 2017/18 European club football season across all major UEFA competitions.
The new #EqualGame campaign films advocate UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin’s belief that European football’s governing body should be a social fair play organisation, which means a zero-tolerance stance on racism, sexism, homophobia or any form of discrimination:
“It is vitally important that UEFA makes football accessible for everyone and, through the power of sport, becomes a global leader to fight for social equality.
“The new #EqualGame initiative aims to help to bring the football community closer together and ensure that values such as inclusion, gender equality and the fight against discrimination continue to be at the forefront of UEFA’s vision and beliefs.”
Paul Pogba, the Manchester United FC and France midfielder, has been one of the most vocal supporters of #EqualGame and he explained he is delighted to have the opportunity to help people become aware of all the possibilities to enjoy football:
“I am really honoured because it’s something that I can and want to do – to show the world that we’re all equal and we just play football because we love it.
“I think UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign is something that will help football in the whole world – it will send a message to everyone that we are all the same on the pitch wherever you come from. As players and fans, we all share the same love for football on the pitch. I hope fans will get inspired and spread the message.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid CF and Portugal forward, says he is supporting #EqualGame because of his belief that football can be a force for good:
“I am grateful for everything football has given to me and my family, and this is why I want to give back to society as often as I can. I see it as my responsibility, as a person and a footballer, to try to bring happiness to as many people as I can, on and off the pitch.
“I truly feel that football can be a force for good in people’s lives, no matter who they are, where they’re from or what their ability is. This is why I decided to support UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign, because it promotes that football is for everyone.”
Lionel Messi, the FC Barcelona and Argentina forward, believes football has the power to break down barriers and is giving his support to #EqualGame:
“During the course of my career, our beloved sport has taught me many things, but above all it has shown me that football really is a universal game that is accessible to all, regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
“The fact that football acts as a leveller in our society is a source of great pride to all of us involved in the game. Whilst everyone is different we’re all united by a common passion for a sport that truly belongs to each and every one of us. I’m fully behind UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign because I believe in the immense power of the sport and its ability to change our outlook on the world.”
Ada Hegerberg, the Olympique Lyonnais forward, said:
“Football is popular all over the world and it plays such an important part in people’s lives. This means the game has the power to change attitudes and help communities achieve positive social change.
“I’m backing UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign because I want everyone, and especially young girls, to believe football is for them and they have the right to play and enjoy the game. If we can increase diversity in the game and get more people playing, football and society will be stronger.”
The central principle of #EqualGame is: “Everyone has the right to enjoy football, no matter who you are, where you’re from or how you play”.
As a television, digital and social media campaign involving global football stars, local grassroots players and fans, #EqualGame will generate positive public awareness of all the different ways people can play and enjoy football – including, for example, walking football for older players, grassroots women’s football and football for people with physical impairments.
Appearing alongside the football stars are (in order of appearance):
Eddie Thomas (age 66):
Eddie hails from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. After suffering a series of injuries, he was desperate not to give up the game he had been playing since he was 11. Eddie therefore started playing walking football. Eddie, who was a coal merchant by trade, loves the camaraderie of being in a walking football team and the physical activity helps him to keep fit.
Zehra Badem (age 17):
Zehra lives in Berlin, Germany. She lives and breathes football and is determined to train as much as she can. Zehra has overcome many challenges to pursue her dream to play football and, as a result, has grown in confidence. She is academically bright and receives good grades, while off the pitch, her dream is to become a police officer.
István Szabó (age 36):
István is from Budapest, Hungary. Despite being blind, this has not stopped him from embracing football and he is the captain of his local blind football team – Lass Budapest. Football has given him self-confidence and freedom. Away from the pitch, he likes spending time with his wife and young son.