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U.S. Soccer League and WNBA Help with Anti-Malaria Efforts in Africa

Major League Soccer (MLS), the US based soccer league, and the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) do not get the same exposure with the U.S. public as the big four sports leagues: the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League.   

But the MLS and the WNBA have been growing in popularity in recent years.  The two leagues are using this newly found exposure for a good purpose.

I happened on a great story involving the MLS and the WNBA the other day about the involvement of athletes from the two leagues with the United Nations Foundation with a campaign called Nothing But Nets.  This is a grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Through the campaign, many families in poor countries in the region receive insectide-treated bed nets.  This helps reduce mosquito bites, which is the most common way in which malaria is transmitted.  This ties in very closely to the Sixth Millennium Development Goal to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases as part of the effort to address global poverty.

The symbolism of nets is important in other ways for the players of the MLS (or any soccer player for that matter).  Whenever the ball touches the net (on the inside), someone has scored a GOOOL.  By participating in this program, MLS players like Dwayne de Rosario of the Houston Dynamo, Diego Gutierrez of the Chicago Fire and the league itself have scored a different kind of GOOOL.  Both recently players traveled to Mali as part of the program,  Here is a great article in ESPN.com.

"One of the reasons that we get involved in things like this is to make a difference," said Gutierrez.  "We fully realize that sometimes people listen to professional athletes a little more than they would anyone else. We have an ability and a platform to get a word out there."

Ruth Riley of the San Antonio Silver Stars of the WNBA, who has also become very involved with the program, also went on this trip to Mali. She talked about her experiences to students at Brown Elementary  School in San Antonio.

They have been working hard to raise money for the Campaign, and the students are extremely enthusiastic about saving the lives of children an ocean away!"

Read her full blog post

So there are many ways in which all of us, famous or not famous, can do our part to promoting the MDGs.  Some of us do it by organizing a letter-writing campaign as part of Bread for the World's 2008 Offering of Letters to increase poverty-focused development assistance by $5 billion..  Others do it by joining other campaigns involving direct service. Many people do both. Ultimately, we all have the same goal: to greatly reduce global poverty by 2015 and beyond.


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