Italy: Gary Lineker ‘flattered’ as he receives award for human rights work
Former England player gets international award at ceremony in Rome, where Palestinian footballer Natali Shaheen was given ‘Sport and Human Rights’ award
‘Today, we celebrate two individuals who defend and promote human rights’ – Ileana Bello
‘I believe it’s a valuable prize because it highlights the importance of respecting human rights in the world of sport’ – Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker has spoken of being “flattered” after his contribution to promoting human rights within sport was recognised at a prestigious “Sport and Human Rights” award ceremony in Rome today.
Lineker, a staunch advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants, received an award alongside footballer Natali Shaheen, the former Palestine captain currently playing for FC Athena Sassari in the Italian five-aside league Calcio a 5, who was given a Sport and Human Rights award.
The Sport and Human Rights award, now in its fifth year, is part of a collaboration between Amnesty International and the Italian organisation Sport4Society, and is designed to highlight outstanding contributions to human rights in the field of sport. Past winners of the award are the basketball player Pietro Aradori, the football club Pescara Calcio, former footballer Claudio Marchisio and the retired racing cyclist Alessandra Cappellotto (see below for further details).
During the awards ceremony, which took place this afternoon in Rome at the National Federation of the Italian Press, Lineker was given a special international award for his commitment to promoting human rights through his work as a commentator and support for Amnesty UK’s Football Welcomes campaign, which celebrates the contribution players with a refugee background make to football.
Gary Lineker said: “It’s a great honour to receive this prestigious award in a country that’s not my own, which means a lot to me. I’m truly flattered.
“I believe it’s a valuable prize because it highlights the importance of respecting human rights in the world of sport.
“Football is a platform, and I think it’s important for those who work in it to make the most of it in order to convey positive messages.”
Natali Shaheen was recognised for highlighting the social, political and economic difficulties Palestinian women face in playing football. She said: “I was left speechless when I received the phone call announcing the award. I couldn’t believe my ears – I never expected it.
“I am extremely grateful for this recognition, which I dedicate to those who have supported me and always believed in me and continue to do so today. I am honoured to receive this magnificent and meaningful award.”
Riccardo Cucchi, an Italian journalist and former sport commentator who chaired the awards jury, said the jury had given Shaheen her award for “her commitment in defending human rights and sport rights”.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Ileana Bello, Amnesty International Italy Director, added:
“Based on over 60 years of experience, we know how much sport can contribute to the culture of human rights, but unfortunately, it can also violate them.
“For over ten years, we’ve been denouncing sportwashing, a strategy used by Gulf monarchies to hide human rights violations through sport, as in the glaring case of the Qatar World Cup.
“Today, we celebrate two individuals who defend and promote human rights. Their actions turn sport into a powerful instrument for fostering change and upholding fundamental rights.”
About the award
The Sport and Human Rights award, which is decided by a jury of experts, is given to an athlete, a club or a sporting organisation which has made a significant contribution to the recognition of human rights. Past winners are the basketball player Pietro Aradori (2019), the football club Pescara Calcio (2020), former footballer Claudio Marchisio (2021), and the retired racing cyclist Alessandra Cappellotto (2022).