In the Capital to campaign for international children’s rights group Save the Children, Fernando Llorente, Spanish national football team striker and ambassador of the NGO, just had one message: Stop the death of millions of children from causes and conditions that can be prevented or treated.
Llorente was in the city last week to create awareness about the two million children under age 5 who die in India every year. He took time out to play football with children from a slum area. “These children are like any other, full of enthusiasm and infectious joy. Given the right support, the kids here can grow up healthy,” the 26-year-old told PTI.
Save the children. Photo: Lakshman Anand
In an email interview, Llorente spoke about his club Athletic Bilbao’s prospects for the next season, his association with Save the Children, and Spain’s dominance in world football. Edited excerpts from the interview:
You’ve had a great season, from winning the World Cup to Athletic Bilbao qualifying for the Europa League. What are your expectations from next season? Is a Champions League spot on the cards?
I am pleased with last season’s results. It was extremely important to win our position in Europe and we have done it. With regards to our goals for the next season, these are realistic ones, since we are going to play in three competitions (La Liga, Spanish King’s Cup and Europa League). One has to be optimistic, but with feet on the ground as playing three competitions in the same season is the maximum.
Spain are now the world, European and under-21 European champions. Having replaced Fernando Torres in the starting line-up, do you think you can play a key role in continuing this dominance?
The success and style of Spain is unquestionable. At this time, we are living a dream and one should enjoy it. I am always available for Vicente del Bosque (the manager of the Spanish national team), but my role being a part of a great team is to support the team and its decisions, just like any of my teammates. Every one in the team is important but no one is indispensable—this is the key to the Spanish selection process.
Do you think the Spanish league La Liga is competitive despite Barcelona and Real Madrid’s clear leadership?
It’s clear that Barcelona and Madrid are the two strongest teams of our league, but the rest are competitive and at the same level. During the season, which is long enough, there can be surprises, as in 90 minutes any team can win. This is the best thing about football.
What brings you to India?
I feel that I owe a lot to football. I want to give back everything that football is giving me. I want to help the people who are fighting in their everyday lives in complicated situations. That’s why I decided to become the ambassador of Save the Children. I am thankful to them for the personal experience that they have given me.
What sort of work are you doing with the charity here?
The work they are doing in Delhi is unbelievable, especially in the health sector, maternal and infant health with the Every One Campaign (a global campaign to save millions of children’s lives). Till you see it with your own eyes, you don’t believe in it. During the year, it’s difficult for us to take out four days like I have here, as there is little time between match schedules. But I hope that with Save the Children I will be able to do it at least once in a year.