WASHINGTON D.C., -- After presenting 20,000 signatures encouraging Congress to continue the fight against Malaria, United Against Malaria hosted an event at the Library of Congress that included the appearance of three MLS players, past and present.
Diego Gutierrez, a former player with Kansas City and Chicago and one of the leading activists in fighting malaria in Africa, was present at the event, alongside D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms and New York Red Bulls defender Danleigh Borman.
Gutierrez began his work with malaria while playing with the Chicago Fire. And while he had their full backing in his efforts, he felt like even more action was needed in hopes of making an even bigger difference.
“My wife and I started thinking that we shouldn’t just stop with the Fire, and we should make this a league wide campaign” Gutierrez told Goal.com. “With that in mind, we approached MLS, and said we would love it if you guys were on board, and Commissioner Garber called me and gave me all his support.”
“Together, we went to the White House, as invited by President Bush, and we celebrated the first ever Malaria Day, and a campaign was born.”
MLS plays a big part in helping fight malaria in Africa. In addition to the involvement of MLS W.O.R.K.S., a philanthropic organization aimed at addressing social issues, MLS helps with the Nothing But Net campaign. The campaign’s goal is to deliver a bed nets to the people of Africa. The insecticide-treated nets have already shown to protect people from contracting malaria.
In hopes reaching the goal of eliminating treatable cases of malaria by 2015, UAM is banking on the fervor surrounding this summer’s World Cup to stimulate awareness of the disease. South Africa’s World Cup will be the first ever held on African soil and UAM view it as the perfect opportunity to jump start awareness to achieve their 2015 goal.
People from all over the globe will be turning in the World Cup, and South Africa will be on display for the world to see. UAM sees it as the perfect opportunity to spread awareness, so their goal is to be ever present during the tournament.
Borman, who made the trip down to Washington D.C. from New York to attend the event, was born in South Africa. And as a South African, he’s excited at the opportunity that the World Cup presents in helping to spread the knowledge about how deadly malaria actually is.
“I hope it brings everybody on board, because the whole world will be watching the World Cup,” Borman told Goal.com. “Hopefully it will open some eyes to see how they can help.”
And throughout Africa, UAM have used the support of some of the biggest soccer stars from the continent as spokespersons. Players such as Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou, Frederique Kanoute, Seydou Kieta, and Kolo Toure have all joined forces with UAM to film public service announcements appealing for help in trying to end treatable cases of malaria by 2015.
Simms noted how important the events on Tuesday were in hopes of spreading the awareness of malaria. This was the second time he had participated in such an event, as he is also involved with the Nothing But Nets campaign.
“Any time you get professional soccer players out, people see us getting involved, and it raises awareness,” Simms said. “I think the event is huge. It [malaria] is definitely a big problem around the world, and so this event is really important.”
Follow Steven Streff on Twitter @streffsoccer
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