By Susanne Malik
This was the motto of the Gofor24 football tournament that took place on the weekend of the 21st to the 22nd of September. A selection of the local Falcons players played against 24 guest teams, continuously for 24 hours, in order to raise money for Operation Smile, an international initiative supported in the UAE.
Established in 1982, Operation Smile’s initiative is to help children born with a cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities, which not only greatly hinder the child in everyday activities, such as eating, speaking and smiling, but also are greatly deteriorating to their health, even resulting in death.
A surgery to fix these deformities only takes as little as 45 minutes, for a cost of just 880 AED, yet providing a life-changing surgery to the affected children. Morag Cromey-Hawke, the executive director of Operation Smile UAE, explained that “every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft. One in ten will die before their first birthday. Many of the children who survive live their lives in shame, hiding their faces because of this tragic deformity.” For this rather simple job, however, money is, of course, needed. For this, Operation Smile runs fundraisers such as the football tournament.
In this charity football event, sponsored by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah, over 60,000 AED was raised. Players were on the field at all times during the 24 hour event, with the guest teams coming and going at all times of day and night.
The event was a huge success, with spirits always kept high, despite being tired and exhausted. Due to its great success, the event will be held again next year, at a bigger scale, with the opportunity for youth, women’s and children teams to participate. This was a fun event for the participants, and a life-changing prospect to a better life for many children; a truly valuable initiative.