GENEVA: Neymar-mania, which has engulfed France, landed briefly in neighbouring Switzerland on Tuesday where the Brazilian star became Handicap International's first-ever international ambassador at a ceremony at the United Nations here.
Neymar's first action as an ambassador of Handicap International was to send a message of support to people with disabilities across the world. Paris Saint-Germain's new prize acquisition went on the top of the 39-foot Broken Chair monument, which sits in the main square outside the UN's European headquarters, and called for more inclusion of people with disabilities in society. Symbolically, this message took the shape of a soccer ball with the logo of Handicap International on it. He then kicked the ball down the Allée des Nations in front of the Palace of Nations.
The event was followed by a press conference hosted by the United Nations office. The Brazilian team captain told reporters the opportunity to work with the organisation that advocates for the rights of disabled people marked "a unique moment" in his life.
Broken Chair is the work of the Swiss artist Daniel Berset, erected 20 years ago by Handicap International in front of the United Nations headquarters to call for a ban on antipersonnel landmines.
More broadly speaking, Neymar has chosen to engage with Handicap International and to promote all of the charity’s work alongside persons with disabilities in 56 countries.
The star and Handicap International initially met in 2016 to discuss access to prostheses for amputee children, a subject that’s particularly close to Neymar’s heart, and a cause he has already supported. He wanted to support similar actions on a global scale, and got to know Handicap International’s prosthetic and orthotic programs.
In October 2016, Neymar showed his support to Haitians impacted by the devastating Hurricane Matthew by urging his followers on social media to support our work in the hard-hit nation.
Speaking later to reporters inside the UN, Neymar said his precise role with Handicap International had not yet been hammered out, but voiced hope it would "be a successful partnership".
Neymar is Handicap International’s first International Ambassador. In North America, Handicap International benefits from the committed support of two Goodwill Ambassadors: American pilot, motivational speaker and RightFooted star Jessica Cox, and Canadian Dark Matter actor Anthony Lemke.
Neymar earned rave reviews for his goalscoring debut with PSG this week, which followed a record 222-million-euro ($264m) transfer from former club Barcelona.