Football legend Didier Drogba on Monday was named the World Health Organization's (WHO) new Goodwill Ambassador for Sport and Health.
Mr. Drogba, from Côte d'Ivoire, will promote WHO's top tips on how physical activity can lead to a healthier and happier life, and also highlight the value of sports, particularly for youth.
The Ivorian striker is best known internationally for his long and record-setting career at Chelsea Football Club, and for having been named African Footballer of the Year in 2006, and 2009. He is the all-time top scorer and former captain of the Ivory Coast national team.
He also has a long track record off the pitch, of participating in various campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles, anti-malaria campaigns, and HIV prevention and control.
'Champion on and off the pitch'
During the announcement of his new role, in Geneva, Mr. Drogba said he was honoured to team up with WHO and "support its work to help people reach the highest level of health possible, especially young people in all countries."
"I have benefited first-hand from the power of sports to lead a healthy life and I am committed to working with WHO to share such gains worldwide", he said.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, hailed Mr. Drogba as "a proven champion and game changer both on and off the pitch."
For Tedros, the athlete's support can help curb the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) through the promotion of healthy lifestyles.
"We are pleased to have him playing on our team, and helping communities worldwide reach and score goals through sports for their physical and mental health and well-being", Tedros said.
According to the WHO chief, Mr. Drogba will also support the mobilization of the international community to "promote sports as an essential means for improving the physical, mental health and social well-being of all people, including in helping COVID-19 recovery efforts."
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of physical activity. According to WHO, up to 5 million deaths a year could be averted if the global population was more active.
Lack of exercise
Current global estimates show four in five adolescents, and one in four adults, do not do enough physical activity.
Globally this is estimated to cost $54 billion in direct healthcare costs, and another US$14 billion to lost productivity.
Increased physical inactivity also hurts health systems, the environment, economic development, community well-being, and quality of life.
Regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and various types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer.
World Cup health
Mr. Drogba's announcement as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador was made during a ceremony to launch the Healthy 2022 World Cup - Creating Legacy for Sport and Health.
The initiative is a partnership between Qatar's Ministry of Public Health and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, WHO and world football's governing body, FIFA, to promote sports during next year's World Cup in Qatar.
Mr. Drogba joins other WHO ambassadors including champion Brazilian footballer Alisson Becker and his wife, the doctor Natalia Loewe; Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York; Cynthia Germanotta, President of the Born This Way Foundation and mother of artist Lady Gaga; and former UK Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown.