Fifa’s former chief medical officer has criticised the body’s decision to end a project educating children on how to avoid diseases like malaria and HIV.
Fifa says its ’11 for Health’ programme, promoted by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Neymar, had “limited impact”.
But Jiri Dvorak told BBC World Service: “I was convinced we might help impact the health of the future generation.”
Fifa said it is “continuing to invest in similar programmes”.
World football’s governing body added: “Fifa remains committed to providing the best possible medical care and services to our member associations and protecting the health of players throughout the world.”
Dvorak, who helped launch the initiative in 2010, said: “The idea was to translate those health messages into footballing language – for example, defending against infectious diseases. We took a role model to present the message to the 10, 11, 12-year-old kids.
“This is an extremely powerful tool. I have learned that when football talks, everybody listens.”
Dvorak lost his job as chief medical officer in November after 22 years at Fifa, and nine months after Gianni Infantino succeeded Sepp Blatter as president.
Blatter, who had led Fifa since 1998, stood down in 2015 and was later suspended from football for six years for breaching ethics guidelines.
Dvorak said: “I didn’t do anything wrong. The only explanation I can have, and maybe I’m naive, is that I was so close to Mr Blatter, who has supported the development of football medicine.”
Henry Majale’s organisation Mathare Youth Sports Association in Nairobi, Kenya, was a beneficiary of Fifa funding.
He told BBC World Service that Fifa had made the “worst mistake” in ending its ’11 for Health’ project.
“This side of the Sahara the big killers are HIV, AIDS, and malaria,” he said. “They were both covered in this project but now they’re no longer being covered so there is a big gap in terms of information getting to the right people.”
Dvorak and Majale were speaking to BBC World Service’s Steve Crossman