If you were to carry out a poll of the most famous faces in the world today, there can be little doubt that Colombian singer Shakira would feature near the very top of the list. A veritable pop music phenomenon, able to perform in both English and Spanish, she has enjoyed success on every continent and has a fan base that runs into the millions.
What is more, the artist has now become inextricably linked the beautiful game. In addition to performing at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups™, she has been involved in a host of football-related social welfare projects and her current partner is Spain and Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique. Speaking on all these subjects and more, Shakira gave an exclusive interview to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Shakira, how did you first start getting involved in football?
Shakira: In 2006 I was asked to sing at the World Cup in Germany, and in 2010 I was fortunate enough to be asked again. There I had one of the most unforgettable times of my life: the World Cup in South Africa gave me so much on both a personal and professional level. That was how I started to really get involved in football after realising, through those World Cups, the importance and impact this sport has on the lives of billions of people every day, on the dreams of the young people and children who devote so many hours of their lives to playing the game, and the passion it stirs in so many people across the entire globe.
What has had the biggest impact on you during this period?
The level of cultural exchange that happens via events like the World Cup, where people share so much, are brought closer together and become more united. All of this is a social phenomenon which really interests me, while I was also pleasantly surprised by the social work carried out by FIFA through its One Goal campaign, which I was able to be a part of. As a result, this all came together to make the experience even richer for me, because working from that basis we were able to promote the issue of education, which is one of my biggest interests. And now of course football’s a central issue for me at home (laughs). I get the impression that football follows me everywhere and I can’t get away from it!
Football is very popular in Colombia, so are your family fans?
My brothers are, but my father’s never been that keen. But of course now his daughter’s going out with a player it’s got him interested - I think he’s even learnt the offside rule! The thing is, my dad’s always been more of a bookworm, he was interested in more intellectual pursuits, but nobody can escape the passion that football stirs. There are a lot of people who weren’t interested before who’ve ended up catching the bug.
Like your good self, for example…
What happens is once you start to understand football you realise that it’s not just about the physical side of the game and chasing after a ball. It’s a strategic sport which requires a lot of intelligence. It’s a very mental game.
Are you able to sit through a full match?
Yes, of course!
Even when Pique is not involved?
Erm (laughs)… yes, yes. I’ve watched the odd game to try and learn more and because I’m very curious. And also to see how the other teams are doing, but I always watch the games he plays in.
Can it be tricky going out with a footballer, given all the training, games and travelling involved?
It can’t be easy having a performer as a partner either! (laughs). The truth is that I understand that it’s a very difficult profession, which requires dedication, commitment, discipline and teamwork, which is very different to what I do. I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself, but a footballer is like a soldier and has to bear huge responsibility both on and off the pitch. So, it’s been down to me to understand that and support Gerard whenever he needs it.
Have you ever tried playing the game?
I’m better suited to singing songs that get the fans going. Gerard’s tried passing the ball to me a few times, but I can’t say I’m any good!
You’ve already appeared at two FIFA World Cups and the next one is in Brazil. Are you excited about the possibly of being at the competition in South America?
Of course! Brazil is a country I hold very dearly. I’ve got followers there who I’ve been interacting with for years, as well as fellow artists like Ivete Sangalo, and it also has huge figures like Pele. I’d love to go to that World Cup, I’m not sure in what capacity, but I’ll definitely be there. I know that nobody wants to miss it, least of all me.
Finally, can you tell us a little about your football-related social projects?
I’m convinced that promoting sport is an intelligent way of educating our children. In fact, through FC Barcelona and my own Pies Descalzos foundation we have put programmes into place aimed at getting more sport into schools, some of which we have built in highly vulnerable areas where children live in conditions of extreme poverty. Also, with FIFA, we carried out the One Goal campaign and through sales of Waka Waka we raised funds for 20 Centres [for 2010] as part of this initiative. I enjoy taking part in footballing events that are for social causes because, in my view, inspiring children through sport is a way of keeping their bodies and minds healthy, as well as helping nurture their intelligence and ability to relate with others.