Mendieta glad to give back as FWAH raises over $500,000 in Sports Hub debut

The fourth edition of Football with a Heart (FWAH) fundraiser was a resounding success as it entered the Singapore Sports Hub for the first time and raised over $500,000 for nine designated beneficiaries.

Traditionally held at Jalan Besar Stadium since its launch in 2012, FWAH was held at the state-of-the-art National Stadium for the very first time on Saturday.

About 1,000 players battled it out over 220 matches on six standard futsal pitches with the presence of family members, friends and supporters swelling the total crowd to over 3,000.

Parliamentarians such as Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Manpower, and Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development, Mediacorp artistes like Desmond Tan, Joakim Gomez and Zheng Geping and FOX channel personalities that include former S.League footballers Benoit Croissant and Rhysh Roshan Rai were amongst the attendees.

There was a pleasant surprise for those that turned up, with representatives from Spanish giants Valencia CF taking time off their hectic schedule in their five-day stayover in the Republic to grace the event.

Unsurprisingly goalkeepers Mathew Ryan, Jaume Domenech, midfielder Javi Fuego, forwards Santi Mina and Paco Alcacer as well as club legends and La Liga ambassadors Gaizka Mendieta and David Albelda were swarmed with autograph and selfie requests upon their arrival.

Los Che took to the pitch to play in an exhibition game against the Parliamentarians team and emerged 2-0 victors courtesy of goals from Mendieta and Ryan, before participating in kick-about sessions with the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-15 boys’ and girls’ team.

Mendieta, who was part of the famous Valencia side that reached two consecutive UEFA Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001, expressed his pleasure in taking part in this meaningful event despite looking visibly jaded from his exertions.

“It’s been busy, but we’re happy to come here and give something back for the sport,” said the retired midfielder, who won 40 caps for Spain. “You can see the level of passion for football here; we want to promote that and encourage people to take up the sport.”

“To see so many people happy makes us glad and we want to keep coming back here if there is a chance.”

FAS president Zainudin Nordin meanwhile was pleased to see the event bringing together people from all walks of life.

“Grassroots and community football is one of our key strategies aimed at bringing people together as many groups of people as possible, so we are pleased to be part of this meaningful fundraising project,” he commented.

“You can see that the participants on the pitch and supporters at the terraces had an enjoyable day. In addition, over $500,000 raised will benefit various groups in our community which need our support and assistance.

"I want to thank our partners, including Singapore Pools and Sport Singapore for making this event a success.

“Football is a key sport which has the ability to promote bonding among various communities and going forward, we will continue to organise and work with our partners to bring more people together through our football programmes and community outreach activities.”

The exact amount raised from this event will be announced at a Celebratory Dinner on Friday, 3 June at the Sports Hub, with donation cheques presented to the nine beneficiaries in front of guest-of-honour, Singapore president Tony Tan. 

Photos: Singapore Pools