Football Philanthropists: Cristiano Ronaldo

The football world has many excellent philanthropists, as I detailed in a previous post. Let’s take a look at another great example; a footballer so successful, their star so bright, that their massive contributions are easy to overlook. I’m talking about none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano, despite his sometimes tiring dramatics on the pitch, is an accomplished philanthropist. The son of a gardener, Ronaldo has excelled at football’s highest stages for his current club, Real Madrid. And he has been rewarded handsomely. He takes down around £230,000 a week in salary alone. Add that to his numerous endorsement deals and we are talking about an extremely wealthy individual. To be fair, he has absolutely earned it. Ronaldo’s accomplishments are numerous, both with his teams and as an individual. He was with Manchester United from 2003 to 2009, contributing to 3 league titles, including a double winner when they took the Champions League in 2008. That same season, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or and a laundry list of other accolades. For Real Madrid, he has won La Liga, taken the Copa twice, and most recently personally sealed the Champions League victory in penalties (after a fairly tame 120 minutes of play). Add to that Portugal’s victory in the Europeans Championship this summer and Cristiano has really done it all. But what has he done for the world at large? As it turns out: a lot.

Ronaldo’s philanthropy started early. In 2004, when the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami devastated Indonesia, television cameras captured a child wearing the Portuguese number 7 shirt. The boy has survived for 19 days alone after his family was swept away. After seeing the footage, Cristiano traveled to Aceh, Indonesia to raise money for the rebuilding process.

After his mother battled and beat cancer at a hospital in Madeira, Portugal, Cristiano donated £100,000 to the institution to build a cancer centre. He returned to Madeira in 2010 after floods devasted the area to raise money in a charity football match.

After winning the Golden Boot in 2011, he sold the thing and donated the 1.5 million pound purse to pay for schools in Gaza. In 2013, Cristiano was named Save the Children’s newest Global Artist Ambassador. Recently, he launched an app called CR7Selfie which raises money for Save the Children.

He also joined Drogba and others in FIFA’s “11 against Ebola campaign”.

His latest gesture came after his club’s win in the Champions League in Milan. Cristiano netted the winning penalty, and then (after some celebrations, surely), donated his £600,000 bonus to charity, in its entirety.

Those are just a handful of the ways that Cristiano Ronaldo has given back. It’s no wonder that DoSomething.org named him atop their list of most charitable athletes in 2015.

 

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The Major Leagues of Giving Back

didier drogba final

We love stories of celebrities giving back to the communities that raised them or to the world at large. Bill Gates is an obvious example. The legacy created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may very well dwarf the legacy of Microsoft. People who made their fortunes in the public have a bit more scrutiny on them to give back. Especially for athletes or movie stars, we look for them to be philanthropic, in part because their fortunes exist thanks to the tickets purchased by fans, either to the cinema or the stadium. Sometimes we are left wanting, but there are plenty of stories of your favorite stars giving back in very significant ways. Let’s take a look at an example of such; when a star has done so much for their community that the rest of the world takes note. I am talking about none other than football star Didier Drogba.

Drogba is a veteran footballer, currently playing for the Montreal Impact in Major League Soccer in North America. However, he is best known as a striker for Chelsea. He played in London for the Blues for 8 years from 2004-2012 (he also signed for a season in 2014). His professional successes include winning the league numerous times, claiming all the cups you could carry, and even a game winner in the Champions League final (sure it was in the penalty shootout, but his equalizer in the dying minutes of the match got them there). And when he was not scoring against Arsenal, Drogba was playing for his homeland — the Ivory Coast.

His connection to the Ivory Coast is where his philanthropy grew from. The Didier Drogba Foundation has donated millions of dollars to projects benefitting children all across Africa. Most famously;

Drogba donated his entire £3 million signing fee from a Pepsi sponsorship to build a hospital his hometown of Abidjan.

Most significant, though, is Drogba’s direct contribution to returning peace to the Ivory Coast. In the mid-2000s, the country was embroiled in a bloody civil war, with violence threatening all Ivorians constantly. At the height of the violence, the White Elephants were trying to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. After a decisive victory, cameras flooded into the locker room to capture the rapturous celebrations from the squad. Presented with this opportunity, Drogba grabbed a microphone, dropped to his knees, and begged for peace. He pleaded for the rebel forces and the government alike to lay down their arms. No more than a week later, a ceasefire was declared.

 

Soon after, Drogba was again able to bring his country closer together. The Ivorian team was set to play Madagascar in an African Nations Cup qualifier. He used his considerable leverage to arrange for the match to be played in Bouake, a northern city in the heart of the rebel’s stronghold. It was the first time a match had been played in the north of the Ivory Coast since the civil war began. Drogba watched on as leaders from both the warring factions stood side by side for the national anthem. In an interview with the Telegraph, Didier said, “I felt then that that the Ivory Coast was born again.”

 

The White Elephants won that match 5-0. Following the landslide victory, government and rebel forces joined in the streets to celebrate. Afterward, the leader of the rebel forces was quoted, “The 5-nil scoreline represents five goals to erase five years of suffering. It would have taken months and even years for my ministry to achieve what Didier Drogba and his teammates have achieved in 90 minutes”

 

It was for these contributions that Time Magazine named Didier Drogba on their list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2010. Many athletes attach their names to civil centers, or donate to charities, but in terms of real-world benefits, few can match the Ivory Coast’s favorite son, Didier Drogba. Similar to Bill Gates, his greatest legacy may not be his professional accomplishments, but rather what those accomplishments allowed him to do.