Andrei Arshavin: Life Should be like Football

nigel smithCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2009

WEST BROMWICH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 03:  Andrei Arshavin of Arsenal celebrates after setting up the second goal for his team during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on March 3, 2009 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Top footballer Andrei Arshavin is the latest high profile celebrity to back the Council of Europe's "Speak out against Discrimination" campaign.

"I want everyone to support the campaign against discrimination," the 28-year-old  Arsenal and Russia midfielder declared.

"Football gives every player the opportunity to express his or her talent and contribute to the team, regardless of race, religion, or social origin," he added. "It is also a sport which gives every player the chance to compete on the basis of ability. This is how life should be."

Arshavin’s endorsement is a timely boost for the Council of Europe's Moscow campaign, which will be launched officially on Sept. 16.

It also cements Arsenal’s reputation as a club active in the fight against bigotry and prejudice. Arshavin's club manager Arsene Wenger has also supported the Council of Europe’s campaign.

"I believe everybody who loves football should just enjoy how great the players are and nothing else," Wenger said last June.

Footballer turned activist Lilian Thuram,  Montpellier rugby lock Mamuka Gorgodze, 2009 Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak, and a host of other sporting and cultural celebrities have also given public backing to the 47-country campaign.

The Council of Europe, the region's oldest and largest assembly of nations, is focusing attention on Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-gypsyism in Europe.

The organization believes the media can play a lead role in the promotion of dialogue in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith environment. The campaign also encourages the media to adopt fairer recruitment policies, which would allow more ethnic minorities to enter the profession.

"The support of well-known personalities like Andre Arshavin is very important to the progress of this campaign," said a Council of Europe spokeswoman. "Thanks to high profile supporters, campaign launches, conferences and cultural events, we are building the campaign’s momentum and mobilising opinion against discrimination in Europe."