Chelsea coach’s new job at World Food Programme kicks off with visit to sub-Saharan Africa to witness effects of malnutrition
On the football pitches of Europe he is known as “the special one”, but José Mourinho may soon be referred to as “the humble one” as he learns firsthand what it is like to go hungry during a trip to sub-Saharan Africa with the UN.
“I was amazed with the numbers. I could not believe or imagine them. I was shocked,” he said in London, where he was formally appointed as an ambassador against hunger for the World Food Programme. The Chelsea manager was referring not to the astronomic salaries in the world’s most popular game, but to the latest UN figures that show 842 million people do not have enough to eat. The data also reveals that malnutrition causes nearly half of all deaths among under-fives and that 66 million primary school-age children go hungry every day.
Mourinho said: “People think that football is the most important thing in the world. But it isn’t. We are nobody compared to so many people in this world doing important things. I want to be one of them. It means a lot to me.
“The World Food Programme thinks that I am not ready to go immediately to a super-hard environment. I must grow up, step-by-step. I am the naive manager who is getting the job for the first time. I am eager to learn. I am full of desire. I am also naive.
“The kids won’t know who I am. I will be just someone with a heart and a human touch, hopefully feeding them and bringing happiness. What I give, I give with my heart like I do everything. I hope to play my part well,” he said. “But when I go to the field, I will feel quite confident with human interaction. I was a teacher years ago with kids from difficult environments.”
It is thought that in the next few weeks Mourinho could be taken to Liberia or the Ivory Coast to better understand the effects of malnutrition. He could eventually visit crisis spots such as South Sudan, a country likely to need more than $1bn to pay for emergency food supplies to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.