5 World Cup Athletes Leaving Their Mark On and Off The Field

 

As sports fans, we love seeing our favorite athletes doing what they do best- performing and showcasing their talents on the field. However, not only is it a blessing to watch these phenomenal athletes on the pitch, but it is also amazing to see their contributions to society. Sport has given world-class athletes the platform to inspire people and take up charitable causes of their choosing.

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup currently taking place in Russia, here are 5 World Cup stars that have been heavily involved with charity, causes, and community work:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo’s global presence

Cristiano Ronaldo attempted to add another trophy to his collection and take another step towards becoming one of the best footballers of all time at the World Cup in Russia. His team fell short, but he still put in some fantastic individual performances. Off the field, Ronaldo seems to go above and beyond every year to make sure that he gives back to society. In 2015, the Portuguese captain edged out WWE superstar, John Cena, to the title of the world’s most charitable sports star.

His humanitarian history dates back to 2004, when he visited Indonesian tsunami victims after seeing footage of a young boy wearing his jersey. He paid for the young boy’s education and gave him a tour of Sporting CP’s football stadium (his team at the time). In 2008, he donated the money he won from a lawsuit to a charity back home in Portugal. In 2009, he gave more than $165,000 to help fund a cancer center at the hospital where his mom was treated in Portugal. He won the Golden Boot in 2011, and sold it to help fund schools in Gaza. In 2012 and 2013, he helped in the efforts to save a 9-year-old boy’s life, by paying for the boy’s cancer treatment. He recently donated upwards of $83,000 to fund a young child’s brain surgery, and donated his entire Champions League bonus of $600,000 to charity. He has been the brand ambassador for a variety of campaigns, such as “Save The Children,” and other causes that cater to addressing biodiversity, childhood hunger, and obesity.

Ronaldo credits his father for his giving nature because his father told him from a young age that when you help people, God helps you. It is truly incredible to see his dedication towards helping others. His efforts have impressed people almost as much as his football skills have!

2. Lionel Messi’s support for the youth

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Arguably the most skilled player of his generation, Lionel Messi did not manage to bring home one of the only trophies he is yet to win, the World Cup. However, no matter what happens in his professional career, we know that he will continue to pour his heart into charitable efforts. His charity work is centered around supporting young kids. He knows the pain of having a troubled childhood, given his medical history, and does not want kids to go through what he did.

His philanthropic work can be traced back to 2007 when he visited a children’s hospital. This had such a profound impact on him that he starting his own foundation (The Lionel Messi Foundation) to fund medical research centers worldwide. In 2010, Leo visited Haiti, months after it was hit by the earthquake, to raise awareness for the plight that the children went through. In 2012, he sponsored a 12-year-old boy’s medical bills who had the same growth hormone deficiency problem as Messi in his youth. In 2013, he donated over €670,000 for the refurbishment of a children’s hospital in Rosario, his hometown. In 2016, he won a lawsuit against a newspaper that claimed he used PEDs. He donated the amount he won, about €72000, to Doctors without Borders. His most notable charitable act was when he sent a signed jersey to a young fan from Afghanistan and met him before the start of a game, making the boy’s dream come true.

The Argentinian captain does not get enough credit for his community service, but he truly has a heart of gold (much like a lot of the hardware he has at home)!

3. Harry Kane helping out

Harry Kane is having a phenomenal 2018 World Cup so far. He has scored 5 goals in 2 games, and currently leads the Golden Boot race. He looks primed to end his country’s 52-year World Cup drought, by leading them to win it all this year. Off the pitch, he does some fantastic charity work that often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

The English captain has done a lot of charity work in the last few years. In 2016, Kane visited the home of a young boy named Joe with special needs, to interact and play some football with him and his family. He did this to support the Noah’s Ark charity, and so that more people would see his efforts and themselves be encouraged to help families associated with the Noah’s Ark charity. In 2017, he showed how he was as good with a pen as he is at taking pens. He sketched a picture of both his dogs for a Blue Cross campaign, that raised funds to take care of homeless pets. His love for his dogs encouraged him to get involved. Also in 2017, he donated to Comic Relief, a charity launched in 1985 in response to the Ethiopian famine. He also supports the Bobby Moore Fund, which is the FA’s official charity partner.

Harry Kane might be a hurri-cane on the field, but he is a true gentleman off it!

4. Kylian Mbappe’s selfless nature

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Kylian Mbappe, the 19-year-old French sensation, has been having a phenomenal World Cup campaign. He recently became the youngest player to score two goals in a round-of-16 game since Brazilian legend, Pele. He has not let the hype or comparisons get to his head, and has remained focused on his craft above all else. He has also emphasized the importance of playing for his country, and stated that he is not doing it for the money, but for the pride. This has been exemplified by his wonderful charitable gesture.

Mbappe announced that he will be donating everything he makes from the World Cup, in terms of match fees and bonuses, to charity. One of these charities is called the Premiers de Cordée association, which organizes sports activities for children with disabilities. He will also be donating his participation wages to various associations after each match. He has also promised to donate his entire winnings (if France win the World Cup) to the same charity stated above. Mbappe’s generosity has earned him high praise from his peers and teammates.

Given that many young athletes spend their money on fancy possessions and experiences, it is a refreshing change of pace to see a youngster making such a selfless gesture.

 

5. Kasper Schmeichel: Pride of Denmark

Kasper Schmeichel had a great World Cup campaign. Schmeichel secured a clean sheet in two out of the three group-stage matches that Denmark played. They also advanced to the round of 16 where he saved a Modric penalty to get his team through to penalties where he saved two more. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and they were eliminated.

Off the field, the Danish goalkeeper recently became the 32nd footballer to join Common Goal, the initiative pioneered by Juan Mata. Schmeichel will donate 1% of his salary to charity through this movement. His wife and him also have a charity of their own back in Denmark, called Fodbold Fonden. Since he began playing football, he always believed in the importance of teamwork and togetherness, stating that these ultimately help you achieve your goals.

He does not want to be remembered just as a footballer, but as someone who made a difference for those less fortunate than him. “Being part of Common Goal is a chance for me to be part of a different team — using our influence on the pitch to try to build something off the pitch.” Truly inspirational!

These athletes have made it their mission to make a difference in their communities, through countless philanthropic efforts. We salute them for that and encourage everyone to follow their example!