Published — Monday 2 June 2014
Last update 2 June 2014 12:07 am
RIO DE JANEIRO: An organ donation campaign by one of Brazil’s biggest football clubs targeting its fans has led to a massive rise in the number of life-changing transplants and reduced waiting lists for organs in the area almost to zero.
“Every Brazilian is born with football in the soul,” says Jorge Peixoto, of Sport Club Recife, one of the top teams in the north-east of the country.
For the last two years though, he has been more concerned about what happens to fans’ bodies when they die.
The club decided it “must look beyond the 11 players on the field and use its power for bigger things,” says Peixoto, the club’s vice-president for social programs.
It asked them to become “immortal fans” donating their organs after they die so that their love for the club will live on in someone else’s body, the BBC reported.
“I promise that your eyes will keep on watching Sport Club Recife,” says one man waiting for a cornea transplant in the television ad made to publicize the campaign.
“I promise that your heart will keep on beating for Sport Club Recife,” says a potential recipient of a transplanted heart.
The video is screened at every match in the club’s Ilha do Retiro stadium, a venue that seats 35,000 but could be filled almost twice over with the number of people who have signed up for a donor card — 66,000 so far.
The waiting list for organ transplants in the city of Recife was reduced to zero in the first year, Peixoto says, and the impact has also been felt throughout the surrounding state of Pernambuco.
“We used to perform from five to seven heart transplants a year, but last year we achieved 28… it was an incredible increase,” says Fernando Figueira, director of heart transplants at Pernambuco’s Institute of Integrated Medicine.
“There is a very tight connection between the campaign and this rise.”
People can apply online for the Sport Donor card — it’s the size of a credit card, the words printed over the outline of a heart with a fiery red backdrop.
According to Brazilian law, it’s up to the family to decide whether the organs of their loved ones will be donated after their death. But making this decision is not easy in such painful moments.
The success of the campaign has been noticed around the world and Sport Recife has been contacted by Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, both thinking about adopting similar campaigns, Peixoto says.
He hopes the forthcoming World Cup will help spread the idea further.