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Ada Hegerberg, Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo join amateur players to promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility in UEFA's new #EqualGame campaign.
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Some of football's biggest stars have joined forces with amateur players from around Europe in the advertisements for #EqualGame, UEFA's new RESPECT social responsibility campaign, which positively promotes inclusion, diversity and accessibility in football.
Ada Hegerberg, Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo feature together in two new videos, with an extended version premiering on Monday 11 September and a TV spot making its first appearance on 12 September for Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League matches.
"It is vitally important that UEFA makes football accessible for everyone and, through the power of sport, becomes a global leader to fight for social equality," said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, who believes that European football's governing body should be a social fair play organisation, which means a zero-tolerance stance on racism, sexism, homophobia or any form of discrimination.
As a television, digital and social media campaign involving global football stars, local grassroots players and fans, #EqualGame will generate positive public awareness of all the different ways people can play and enjoy football – including, for example, walking football for older players, grassroots women's football and football for people with physical impairments.
Pogba said: "I think UEFA's #EqualGame campaign is something that will help football in the whole world – it will send a message to everyone that we are all the same on the pitch wherever you come from." The Manchester United FC and France midfielder added that he is "honoured" to be taking part in the campaign as it gives the chance to "show the world that we're all equal and we just play football because we love it".
The central principle of #EqualGame is: 'Everyone has the right to enjoy football, no matter who you are, where you're from or how you play' and this is one of the underlining factors why Cristiano Ronaldo is supporting #EqualGame.
"I am grateful for everything football has given to me and my family, and this is why I want to give back to society as often as I can," the Real Madrid CF and Portugal forward said. "I see it as my responsibility, as a person and a footballer, to try to bring happiness to as many people as I can, on and off the pitch."
Lionel Messi has also giving his backing to #EqualGame, with the FC Barcelona and Argentina forward saying that football acts as a leveller in our society and that everyone is united by a common passion for the game.
"During the course of my career, our beloved sport has taught me many things, but above all it has shown me that football really is a universal game that is accessible to all, regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious beliefs," he said.
Amateur footballers share top billing in the #EqualGame adverts. One of these individuals is Eddie Thomas, a 66-year-old retired coal merchant from Wales, who after suffering a series of injuries, was desperate not to give up the game.
"I played for years and I only finished playing four years ago. My last game was playing for Wales Veterans Football against England, and that was my last game of football," Eddie explained. "Then I had a couple of years not doing anything and a good friend of mine managed to persuade me to take up walking football. I thought, 'No, no, I'll never do it', but I love it now."
István Szabó, a blind footballer from Hungary who set up his own football team for the visually impaired, and Zehra Badem, a 17-year-old girl from Berlin who broke down many social barriers in achieving her dream to play football, also feature in the TV adverts.
Every month UEFA will be promoting an amateur footballer from around Europe who is able to show that age, disability or ethnicity is no obstacle to playing and enjoying football. Audiences can view and share the online content via all of UEFA's digital channels, social media platforms and the www.equalgame.com website.