Arsenal star Andrei Arshavin has become the latest high profile celebrity to back the Council of Europe’s ‘Speak Out Against Discrimination’ campaign.
“I want everyone to support the campaign against discrimination,” the 28 year old Arsenal and Russia midfielder declared.
He added: “Football gives every player the opportunity to express his or her talent and contribute to the team, regardless of race, religion or social origin. It is also a sport which gives every player the chance to compete on the basis of ability. This is how life should be.”
Arshavin’s endorsement is a timely boost for the Council of Europe campaign which launches officially in Moscow on 16 September.
It also cements Arsenal’s reputation as a club active in the fight against bigotry and prejudice.
“I believe everybody who loves football should just enjoy how great the players are and nothing else,'' Wenger said last June.
Footballer-turned activist Lilian Thuram, Montpellier Hérault Rugby Club lock Mamuka Gorgodze, 2009 Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak and a host of other sporting and cultural celebrities have also given public backing to the 47-country campaign.
The Council of Europe, the region’s oldest and largest assembly of nations, wants the campaign to focus attention on the scale of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-gypsyism in Europe.
The organisation believes the media can play a lead role in the promotion of dialogue in a multi-ethnic, multi-faith environment. The campaign also encourages the media to adopt fairer recruitment policies which would allow more ethnic minorities to enter the profession.
“The support of well-known personalities like Andre Arshavin is very important to the progress of this campaign,” said a Council of Europe spokeswoman. “Thanks to high profile supporters, campaign launches, conferences and cultural events, we are building the campaign’s momentum and mobilising opinion against discrimination in Europe.”