FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has lent his support to a campaign to fight obesity led by Michelle Obama, the wife of the US president who set a fine example last Friday by doing some exercises herself. "I think that it's really motivating for children to see someone as famous as this taking the lead," said Blatter. "And one thing I do know is that sport in general and football in particular can help to fight this curse."
A month ago to the day (9 February), First Lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign to fight obesity among children – something which has become a veritable scourge throughout the United States. 'Let’s move' has set the bar high, hoping to a eliminate obesity among children in the space of one generation no less. President Obama's wife is determined to back up these words with deeds, and on 5 March she visited the US Youth Soccer Foundation in Washington to do various exercises with obese children to help them to lose weight.
The initiative is aimed at getting to the root cause of a phenomenon which is of real concern to the US government, who state that one child in three in the United States is overweight or obese, and that they are spending 150 billion dollars each year to treat obesity-related illnesses.
Michelle Obama was accompanied in Washington by a number of the country's most famous names in football, including Don Garber, commissioner of Major League Soccer (MLS), Sunil Gulati, president of the US Soccer Association, and players from D.C. United including Christian Castillo, Jaime Moreno, Eddie Pope and Claudio Reyna as well as Briana Scurry, USA and Washington Freedom goalkeeper.
FIFA's "11 for Health" project
FIFA for its part has long been working hard to promote football as being good for the health. FIFA's Medical Commission and the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) are currently working on a project called "11 for Health" based on an analysis of the most important risk factors as identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and which is exploring football's potential to improve the health of both individuals and of various communities the world over.
"Football helps us educate youngsters when it comes to health," Dr. Michel D’Hooghe, Chairman of the FIFA Medical Commission, explained recently after the third International Football Medicine Conference held in Sun City.
A pilot study was carried out last year in South Africa involving children aged 11 to 15, and has since been extended to include Mauritius and Zimbabwe. "If the results are as good as those achieved in the pilot project, we will be looking to extend '11 for Health' throughout Africa and South America from 2011 onwards," said Jiri Dvorak, FIFA' Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of F-MARC.
According to WHO estimates, almost 1.6 billion adults and 20 million children were overweight in 2005 – alarming figures which illustrate the need for any and all campaigns of this nature.