Football legends Kalusha Bwalya, former Dutch international and one-time coach of Barcelona Frank Rijkaard, Arsenal and Nigeria former international Nwankwo Kanu and Dutch under-19 coach and former Dutch international Aron Winter on Thursday rendered their support to the promotion of peace and development.
The quartet participated in a special football tournament for Ambassadors accredited to the United Nations, organized by the Permanent Missions of Zambia and The Netherlands to the UN, to promote peace and development.
At least 30 Permanent Representatives and other diplomats played the game, whiles many others cheered on.
Preceding the tournament, the quartet addressed UN correspondents at a press conference where they emphasised the role of football in promoting peace and development around the world.
The football stars condemned racism in football, and called on FIFA – the world football governing body – “to do more” to penalise the culprits.
The footballers also highlighted the importance of promoting the welfare of children and plight of refugees.
“I think FIFA is doing a lot in anti-racism in football. With the new President, ways will have to be found in which racism will have to be addressed,” said Kalusha, a FIFA Football Committee Member. “FIFA has to take a stronger position against people perpetuating racism.”
On corruption scandals in FIFA, Kalusha expressed confidence that FIFA will regain people’s confidence.
Kalusha said: “FIFA was in the news for the wrong reasons, it’s a major task of the new president Gianni Infantino. I think he is very capable. I am also pleased to see that we have a new [FIFA] Secretary-General from Africa, [Ms.] Fatima [Samba Diouf Samoura], so we expect that we will have moved away from what FIFA has been in the immediate past. It also starts with all of us who have been acting in football [administration], in our respective countries, charity begins at home.
I think we have to bring the honesty, transparency and work as diligently as possible and eventually it will transcend to the very top. Structures are wide; people today talk about FIFA which is the top but everybody is working in different countries. But I feel very confident with the new dispensation with president Gianni Infantino, I feel that we are moving in the right direction and slowly FIFA will regain its confidence from the people.”
Kalusha and his colleagues also participated in a lunchtime seminar titled “sports for peace and development: Practical experiences from the ground” where he talked about Zambian football and how footballers could be used as role models for young boys and girls.
Kalusha said: “Sports knows no colour of skin, race, religion, gender nor status society – it is a unifier of mankind.”
Kalusha also highlighted the importance of implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform lives of the people worldwide.
Kalusha said: “As football legends, we want to add our voice that we transform the lives of many of our people around the world out of poverty, and that they have access to clean drinking water, sufficient food, quality education, affordable housing etc. When you need us, we are ready to participate and render our support to these noble causes.”
In an interview with UN Radio, Kalusha said football plays a big role in bringing people together and ensure peaceful co-existence.
“Zambia is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. We have a fantastic leader His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia, he is always at the forefront trying to bring all the different tribes together so that there is only ‘one Zambia one nation’,” said Kalusha.
The legends also held a football clinic for children aged 8-12 years old.
Kalusha, the 1988 African Footballer of the Year, who arrived in New York on Tuesday for a four-day working visit at the invitation of the Permanent Missions of The Netherlands and Zambia to the United Nations, KNVB and Cruyff Foundation, left on Saturday.