PROFESSIONAL footballers are often portrayed as over-paid and uninterested in the world away from the sport.
But the reality is rather different. Not all those who play the beautiful game for a living make millions.
The majority want to give something back, and doSteven Naismith
And many spend their free time helping make a positive influence in their local communities.
Here’s five footballers who have all hit the target off the pitch on behalf of others.
The striker from Ayrshire has enjoyed a stellar start to the new season with English Premier League giants Everton. While his recent hat-trick against Chelsea made the headlines, the 29-year-old Scotland internationalist is also becoming increasingly known for his charitable endeavours. He regularly distributes free match tickets to unemployed Everton fans via local Jobcentres, promotes the work of foodbanks and also supports Dyslexia Scotland. “A lot of footballers do (charity work) but it doesn’t get recognised,” he told the BBC. “The majority want to give something back, and they do.
“I’ve grown up in a job that feels more like a hobby, and I’m fortunate enough to make a living out of it.
“Within that you get so many opportunities that could be a small thing for me but would make a big difference to people who’ve not had it, in my eyes, as easy.”
The Celtic captain joined his brother Stewart to promote Cancer Research UK’s dryathlon campaign in 2013, which encourages members of the public to abstain from alcohol for one month. The charity is close to the Browns’ hearts following the death of sister Flora in 2008 from skin cancer. Stewart, who played junior football for Lochore Welfare, previously climbed Ben Nevis barefoot for Cancer Research.
The Arsenal midfielder was a key part of the Germany side that triumphed at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Özil was clearly touched by the host nation, as after the tournament he revealed on Facebook that he was supporting 23 local children that required surgery as a “thank you to the hospitality of the people of Brazil”.
Former Liverpool forward Kuyt set up his charitable foundation with wife Gertrude in 2006 in his homeland of The Netherlands. The motto of The Dirk Kuyt Foundation is ‘fun for all’ and now specialises in sporting sessions for disabled children. It hosts more than sixty sporting events across the country each year, focussing on the diversity of adapted sports such as G-soccer, sailing and wheelchair tennis.
Perhaps the world’s best known Ivorian, Drogba is a national hero in his West African homeland - and not just because of his skill on the park. The former Chelsea striker is credited with helping end a five-year civil war in Ivory Coast after he made an impassioned plea - broadcast around the world - for all sides to lay down their weapons following the country’s qualification for the 2006 World Cup. His continuing involvement in the peace process led to Time magazine naming him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012.