Every time Lionel Messi takes to the pitch, he usually creates headlines.
Arguably the greatest player to ever step foot onto a football pitch, Messi’s life away from the field is quiet and reserved as he lives with his fiancee Antonella Roccuzzo and brings up his sons Thiago and Mateo.
But there’s one bit of Messi’s life that is often unreported – his charitable work.
Last week it was revealed Messi’s foundation helped to build 20 classrooms for schools in Syria, with the invaluable work helping over 1,600 children caught up in the horrific civil war back into education.
Over 60% of children in the Syrian schools where the fund has helped build new classrooms have been displaced since the conflict began in 2011.
Messi’s charitable work is often targeted towards helping children, which is due to the hardship the Barcelona star suffered when he was a child – Messi had medical complications when he was young and he suffered growth deficiency.
From the age of 11 for three years, every night Messi would have a needle injecting treatment to help strengthen his legs and counter the growth deficiency he had suffered.
It is for this reason that Messi spends much of his time and money away from the football field to help disadvantaged children.
His desire to do more charitable work increased in 2007 after visiting a hospital for terminally ill children. From this visit, Messi decided to set up his own foundation, the Lionel Messi Foundation, which has since gone onto help with medical research and fund medical centres in Argentina, Spain and around the world.
The Argentinian was named a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador in 2010 after first being involved with the charity in 2004, and his club’s close links to the charity has seen him involved in multiple charitable efforts in the past decade.
In July 2010 Messi visited Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake that left much in the Central American country in ruin.
Messi said about the experience: “It was overwhelming to see the overcrowded displacement camps, the poverty in which people here live.”
In 2013, Messi travelled to Bangkok to meet and play football with young people living with disabilities.
Messi was joined by Barca team-mate Jose Manuel Pinto and took time off from their team tour schedule in Thailand to talk to and play football with the young people, who had all come to Bangkok from different areas of the country for the event.
In 2015, donated £315,000 to UNICEF on the Spanish equivalent of Children in Need, ‘Un Sol Para Los Chicos’ (A Sun For The Children), but perhaps his most notable piece of charitable work was in 2016 when he met six-year-old Afghan child Murtaza Ahmadi.
The boy was pictured wearing a blue plastic bag and had drawn Messi’s name with his iconic number 10 emblazoned on the front.
Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organising committee arranged Messi’s visit to Doha, where he came face-to-face with young Murtaza, and the event captured the world’s hearts.
So while he continues to thrill and excite football fans across the globe on a weekly basis, there’s a whole lot more to Messi than just a brilliant footballer.