Michel D’Hooghe, former President of the Belgian football league

Paying volunteers would make organising events
such as the Olympic Games “nearly impossible”, says
FIFA Executive Committee member Michel D’Hooghe in an
exclusive interview with EURACTIV.

In a long and distinguished
career in football, Michel D’Hooghe’s
roles include being the former President of the
Belgian football league between 1981 and 1987.
He is currently a member of FIFA’s
Executive Committee and is Chairman of
FIFA’s Medical Committee. In terms of
sports initiatives in the community he is
Chairman of ASBL Casa Hogar and Chairman of a
jury of the King Baudoin Foundation.

EURACTIV notes your involvement in
various initiatives relating to sport in the
community. Can you tell us more about one
major project you have been pleased to be
involved in and what lessons can be learnt at
EU level?

The creation of “Casa Hogar”, a
social work for street children in Toluca,
Mexico, during the World Cup 1986 in Mexico :
the world of football (more specifically the
Belgian Football Association and the national
team) showed its interest in the problem of
street children. Over the last 18 years, the
work has constantly developed.

Within the EU, you have been involved
in a project run by the King Baudoin
Foundation involving sailing and climbing for
disadvantaged young people and dance
activities for young people to develop a
sense of responsibility and citizenship. What
was your involvement and what do you think of
projects such as this?

As I have been President of the Belgian
Football Association for 14 years, I was asked
by Nike to be President of a jury of the King
Baudouin Foundation. I accepted this function,
because I believe that such initiatives have a
positive influence in the development of
citizenship in young people.

What do you see as the big pluses and
minuses of the European Year of Education
through Sport?

Sport is the most underestimated part of
education. The world of sport offers a unique
opportunity for the development of people’s
personalities : commitment and motivation, team
spirit, fair-play…

Obesity appears to be a major
worldwide and European problem of the future.
Do you think that a ‘couch potato’
mentality – either sitting in front of the TV
or the computer – is being encouraged by an
overcommercialisation of sport? And how can
young people be encouraged to get off the
couch and get involved in
activities?

One of the big problems of youth is
sedentarism [ie lack of exercise]. The whole of
society should fight against the very negative
effects (medically and mentally) of this on
youth given that an individual’s future
personality is based on a combination of
intellectual training , mentoring and physical
development.

What is your view of the Euro 2004
volunteer programme? Should the EU be
involved in EU volunteer programmes in other
major sporting events such as the Olympics or
the world ice hockey championships for
example?

Any EU initiative concerning volunteer
programmes around major sporting events should
be supported.

Some people say that volunteer work
at major sports events is really about saving
money. Some would say that the International
Olympic Committee make money out of the
Olympics and yet do not pay ATHOC Athens for
the volunteers it needs to stage the
Olympics. In the same way, do you think that
such a wealthy sport as football should be
footing some of the bill for the Euro 2004
volunteers? And what sort of skills do people
learn when they are working for
free?

Organizations like Olympic Games are much
more than ‘money making systems’. If
the thousands of volunteers should be paid,
such an organization becomes nearly impossible.
Volunteership is also a proof of social
engagement in an initiative that promotes your
country.

In terms of sports policy, so far the
EU’s involvement has been limited mainly
to competition-related issues. Which
particular areas of sports policy do you
think that the EU should play a role in and
which particular areas to you think that they
are likely to play a role in?

  • Creation of better infrastructure
  • Support in the education of coaches
  • Fight against hooliganism
  • Fight ag ainst doping
  • Fight against racism

 

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