Ha Dae Sung presenting the autographed football to Deborah Henry

TO many people, football is a beautiful game, while to some, it’s just 22 people chasing a ball around. But on the eve of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Annual Awards night, football proved to be so much more than a game.

The AFC, in partnership with the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP), World Vision, Royal DSM and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), launched the One Goal campaign, a movement aimed to tackle (pun intended) the issue of malnutrition among Asian children. Asia is home to 578 million of the one billion malnourished people around the world.

“Sixty percent of the world’s stunted children live in Asia today. This is unacceptable, and it is something we want to change,” said Eric Drosin, Royal DSM communications director.

The organisers aim to keep the campaign going for the next 10 years, and to reach at least 400 million people. It also aims to get at least 35 national associations and nutrition programmes involved, and to raise a billion dollars a year to help the millions of children around Asia suffering from malnutrition, as well as its effects, such as obesity and stunted growth.

“The reason it’s 10 years is because the issue we’re dealing with – nutrition for every child in Asia, is a long-term investment. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not a 90-minute football game. But investments you make now will ensure children will reach their full potential not only in football, but in life as well,” added Drosin.

One Goal campaign ambassadors Deborah Henry, Miss Universe Malaysia 2011, and FC Seoul and South Korea midfielder Ha Dae-Sung launched the campaign together recently by signing a football.

“I believe awareness is the first step towards action, and this campaign offers the perfect platform, OneGoal.Asia (the campaign website).

“Football touches the lives of those living in villages, in slums, in cities, the privileged and the disadvantaged. It is a unifying force,” said Henry.

Ha added that his teammates were all excited to support the effort however they can. “Good nutrition is absolutely necessary to building a foundation in society and in our children,” he said.

Stuart Ramalingam, AFC’s director of marketing and social responsibility, said the organisation wanted to allow the power of the game to communicate social change.

“A football organisation is not just responsible for the game but society at large. It is the fans, the people around us, even the stakeholders,” he said. “Nutrition is only one issue, but we are working with other organisations to communicate other social issues that do not relate specifically to football.”

Stuart also shared their plans to implement the campaign, which would be achieved through their 47 member organisations, leagues and AFC competitions, such as the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2014 in Vietnam and the Men’s Asian Cup 2015 in Australia, where the campaign would be driven by festivities and conferences.

“It doesn’t mean it’s based around footballers, it doesn’t mean it’s based around the football community. Football is just (the platform) that brings people together,” said Stuart.

World Vision communications director Jayanth Vincent explained that the idea was to start out in Asia, learn from the experience and then expand to other regions. They are also looking for different ways to further fund the campaign, such as through corporate and individual donations.

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