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FIFA and WHO team up to promote healthy stadiums, fans

Soccer Football – World Health Organization & FIFA Press Conference – WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland – October 4, 2019. General view of a ball. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

GENEVA (Reuters) – Soccer’s world governing body FIFA and the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed on Friday to work together to ensure tobacco-free environments at stadiums and to promote healthy lifestyles through football.

The United Nations agency will also provide advice to FIFA regarding healthy diets, food safety, mass gatherings and the risks associated with alcohol.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signed the four-year memo of understanding at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

Infantino, whose Zurich-based organization is emerging from a major corruption scandal in 2015, said that FIFA and the WHO made “natural partners”.

“We finally realized that actually we have also a social mission in FIFA, a social mission that we have to take seriously, that we have to take on responsibly,” Infantino told a joint news conference.

Infantino was asked whether the deal might lead it to review some of its corporate sponsors.

“Of course organizations like co-sponsors of FIFA you mentioned Coca-Cola, McDonalds, they are also as well progressing, making steps. The world is not perfect,” he said.

The WHO campaigns against tobacco, as well as excessive intake of salt and sugar in food to try to stem cardiovascular diseases and an obesity epidemic, especially among children.

“We believe that WHO technical expertise on health, aligned with FIFA’s global reach can really help to ensure we can reach people with the information they need to lead an active and healthy life,” Tedros said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Toby Davis

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