Dubai: Dubai Sports Council (DSC) has honoured 2010 World Cup winner and Spanish football legend Carles Puyol, and former France ace Nicolas Anelka with the ‘Medal of First Line of Defence’ in appreciation of their support for the council’s ongoing ‘Be Fit, Be Safe’ campaign.
Saeed Hareb, General Secretary of DSC, presented the commemorative medals to Puyol and Anelka at the council headquarters in the presence of Nasser Aman Al Rahma, Assistant General Secretary of DSC, on Thursday.
The medals pay homage to the selfless service of Dubai Police, Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services in the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Dubai. Together, they were at the forefront of Dubai’s fight to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, alongside volunteers from different segments of the community.
Puyol, who won 18 major club titles in a decorated career with Barcelona, including six La Liga trophies and three Champions League crowns, was delighted to receive the honour and said: “I had sent a video message earlier for these [COVID-19 front-line] heroes and I am really happy that the situation here is good and under control, and I hope this pandemic will finish in a few months.”
Thanking Dubai Sports Council for the medal, Anelka, who won the 2000 European Championship with France and played for top clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City and Real Madrid, said: “This medal means a lot. It means I am part of the family. I love Dubai and my family lives here, and all my friends as well, and I am happy to receive this.”
Speaking about his life in Dubai, Anelka added: “A lot of top sportsmen, who are big names, want to come to Dubai because of the lifestyle, because in this country everything is beautiful and nice, and you have sunshine all the time.
“You know when I speak with people who are my friends and all the sportsmen, they want to come to Dubai because they know this is one of the best cities in the world. You have all the facilities here to be able to do everything. If you want to do tennis, you have everything. If you want to do football, you also have everything. You have everything for everyone. This is the city where you are able to live a beautiful life.”
The ‘Be Fit, Be Safe’ campaign was launched by DSC in March to encourage members of the community to continue exercising at home following the precautionary closure of gyms to combat the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Through the campaign, the council urged members of Dubai’s diverse community to be safe and avoid going out unless absolutely necessary, and support the efforts being made by Dubai’s front-line heroes to curb the spread of the virus. The campaign also urged community members to continue exercising at home and strengthen their immune system, because a healthy body was the best way to beat the virus.
The ‘Be Fit, Be Safe’ initiative received widespread support from the members of the community as well as international sports and football superstars like Anelka, Puyol and greats like Luis Figo of Portugal, Brazil’s Roberto Carlos and Italy’s Gennaro Gattuso.
Barcelona’s Croatian ace Ivan Rakitic, Real Madrid’s French striker Karim Benzema, Borussia Dortmund’s Achraf Hakimi, Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, former Spain international Michel Salgado, and rising Portuguese star Joao Felix also lent their support to the campaign, sending video messages urging members of the community in Dubai to stay fit and stay safe.
As part of the campaign, DSC has also linked up with some of the leading brands from UAE’s fitness industry to offer free daily virtual fitness classes, led by certified fitness trainers. The Council also organised a number of virtual sports events and webinars under the ‘Be Fit, Be Safe’ initiative, including the world’s first ‘Marathon at Home’, and a Virtual Tour Challenge for cycling enthusiasts.