Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022

Soccer Unites in Global Appeal for the United Nations Response to Ukraine

Published March 29, 2022

As the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine approaches 4 million, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launch the Soccer for Ukraine Emergency Appeal.

GENEVA, LONDON, ROME – Six leading soccer players, three of whom are former refugees, are fronting a joint appeal with UNHCR and the U.N. World Food Programme to raise funds to help refugees who have fled their homes and displaced people inside Ukraine.

The global appeal #football4ukraine comes at a time when almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population – more than 10 million people – have been forced from their homes. Some 3.9 million refugees have been forced to flee the country, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War. An additional 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine’s borders, and at least 13 million are estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as a lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation.

The appeal includes players from across the Premier League, Bundesliga and Division 1 Féminine accompanied with music by the U.N. World Food Programme’s Goodwill Ambassador, the Weeknd. The three players with a refugee background are UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and FC Bayern Munich sensation Alphonso Davies, Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund) – the first Syrian refugee to play in the Bundesliga – and Everton FC goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who was forced to flee his home in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are joined by Manchester City right-back and FIFA Women’s Player of 2020 Lucy Bronze, Olympique Lyonnais’ Ada Hegerberg, the first woman recipient of the Ballon d’Or, and Manchester United’s Juan Mata, a World Cup winner with Spain.

The players, are calling on fans – wherever they are and whatever club they support – to stand together as one team and support people driven from their homes by the war in Ukraine by donating to the appeal.

Alphonso Davies said: “It’s very sad to see the millions of people displaced from around the world due to war. The need for support is growing by the day. This is why this appeal is important, to get urgent aid where it is needed, for everyone.”

“I’m heartbroken by this situation. Millions of people including many children have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine with no idea of what the future holds or when they will be able to return home. It’s even more shocking to think that this is on top of the more than 84 million people already displaced around the world. I hope our appeal for people displaced in Ukraine will deliver the support they need,” said Lucy Bronze.

The joint appeal brings together UNHCR’s expertise in protecting families forced to flee and the U.N. World Food Programme’s experience in saving lives in conflict zones. To ensure donations have the greatest impact for people affected by the emergency in Ukraine, they will be allocated to the two organizations to provide food, shelter, psychosocial support, financial assistance and other lifesaving aid.

UNHCR and the U.N. World Food Programme are on the ground inside and outside Ukraine working day-and-night to help those who need it most. In Ukraine, UNHCR is working to provide emergency, shelter and cash assistance and critical protection services for those who have fled their homes. UNHCR is also helping coordinate the refugee response across the region, providing critical humanitarian and protection assistance and supporting authorities to increase capacities to receive and host new arrivals.

The U.N. World Food Programme is building a massive operation to provide food for civilians trapped in major cities and assist others impacted by the conflict who have fled to neighboring countries. U.N. World Food Programme teams are also setting up operations and hubs in several locations in neighboring countries to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance into Ukraine.

“We are inspired by the response we’ve seen from football fans all over the world, who are showing their support for people affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Our message to everyone, is to remember that no one chooses to become a refugee. Refugees – from Ukraine and beyond – are placed in the most heart-breaking of circumstances, forced to flee for their lives. Each of us can do our bit and unite behind the campaign to extend our support,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

“There cannot be a harvest where it’s raining bombs,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley. “Millions of people in Ukraine are living their worst nightmare and, unless the war stops now, the breadbasket of Europe will be unable to feed itself. With each day of fighting, hunger is tightening its grip not only in Ukraine but also in countries far away from its borders that rely on Ukrainian wheat and grain to keep their poorest citizens alive. This war is a catastrophe for the world.”

In a year of unprecedented humanitarian needs, the crisis in Ukraine is a catastrophe compounding what is already a catastrophic year for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. While UNHCR and the U.N. World Food Programme scale up to respond to the growing needs of the Ukraine crisis, they continue to deliver in other critical situations such as in Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and other humanitarian crises around the world, often far away from the spotlight.

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Notes for editors:

The multi-voice video is available on the following link
The soccer players are not available for interviews. For other enquiries about the players’ involvement, please contact UNHCR’s Colin Kampschoer in London, or Stephanie Hazelwood,

About UNHCR:  UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, protects people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We work in over 130 countries, protecting millions of people by responding with life-saving support, safeguarding fundamental human rights, and helping them build a better future.

About WFP: The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.