The Smart Trousered Philanthropists

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Didier Drogba and Craig Bellamy are three of the top forty goal-scorers the Premier League has ever seen. Impressive. But what is even more impressive about these three strikers is their work off the pitch. In fact their work thousands of miles from the pitch. For these three footballers are great philanthropists as well as great goal-scorers, and in the last three years, they have all donated substantial amounts of money and time to various causes in Africa. First up, the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’, the ultimate supersub with a record 17 goals coming off the bench. In 2008 he pledged to donate all the money raised by his testimonial match (in the end £2 million) to help UNICEF build 10 schools in the Southern African countries of Mozambique, Angola and Malawi.

Next, the ‘Drog’, a man loathed by many opposition fans yet a footballer who has not forgotten, as so many footballers have, those he has left behind. Whilst many of his compatriots coup themselves up in privately-secured roads, generic sports cars battling with generic four-by-fours for parking space, Drogba has been putting great effort into helping his fellow Ivorians. A Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (incidentally a programme that Zinedine Zidane has ufabet เข้าสู่ระบบเว็บตรง helped support through an annual charity match), Drogba pledged £2.5m to build a hospital in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan. He has also set up the Didier Drogba Foundation in 2007, whose mission statement is ‘to provide material and financial support in both health and education to the African people’. He has also been quoted as saying ‘it’s (charity) my main passion. When I retire, it will become my priority number on’, people, due to his philanthropy and attempts at helping to ease the political tensions in his homeland, he was named amongst Time magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People 2010.

Finally, Craig Bellamy. It may come as a major surprise to learn that the man who infamously attacked his teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club, has helped funded and founded the building of a football academy and league in Sierra Leone. Yet this steelworker’s son turned pantomime villain has so far invested half a million pounds (and pledged to follow it with close to a million more) to help the youth of one of the world’s ten poorest countries. Situated in Tombo, an hour and a half from the capital Freetown, the first set of boys started at the academy this September, and the football league was a huge success in its first season, with the school attendance of the 1,600 registered participants standing at 84%, 15% above the national average of 69%.

Of course, this article is far from definitive, and there are a lot of other footballers giving their time and money in aid of great causes. But the point is this: so many top level footballers do the very minimum required of them by their clubs and their PR companies. It is through a change of thinking and approach by that apathetic majority that British football will regain the respect it has lost in the last few years. Until then, the generosity of Drogba, Solskjaer, Bellamy and the like shall merely serve as a beacon of hope, shining through the dense fog of WAGs and adultery.