The highly anticipated event will bring together a diverse group of high-profile individuals from the worlds of sport, entertainment, and global health to raise funds to support Grassroot Soccer’s life-saving work with young people across the globe. Celebrities expected on the red carpet at the event include Ted Lasso stars Brendan Hunt (Coach Beard) and Kola Bokinni (Isaac McAdoo), and TV Presenter and Gala Host June Sarpong OBE.
Appearances will also be made by star athletes (World Cup winners Christen Press and Tobin Heath), dignitaries (former U.N. Under-Secretary-General Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka), and additional celebrities (Rachel Riley, Lilly Becker, and Pasha Kovalev). The evening will focus on the theme of mental health – the most critical health issue facing young people globally, and one that affects other urgent health challenges including sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS.
“At Grassroot Soccer, we’re using the power of football and fun to improve the mental health and well-being of young people at heightened risk and with limited access to information and services,” said Dr Tommy Clark, Grassroot Soccer’s founder and CEO.
“This year’s gala will shine a light on this pressing issue and help provide our organisation with the critical resources we need to reach even more young people through our programmes.” Dr Clark and three fellow footballers founded Grassroot Soccer in 2002 after witnessing the devastating effects of HIV while playing professional football together in Zimbabwe.
After watching friends die of AIDS, the four teammates recognized that football — a positive force in the community — could be used to engage adolescents to stop the spread of HIV. Over its more than 20-year history, Grassroot Soccer has evolved from a disease focus to an adolescent health focus, empowering more than 18 million young people to make educated choices about their most pressing and interconnected health challenges, including HIV/AIDS, mental health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-based violence.
At the Gala, the television series Ted Lasso and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) will be honoured with Grassroot Soccer’s Game-Changer Award, which recognises extraordinary leadership in empowering young people globally to overcome their greatest health challenges and live healthier lives. The award will recognise Ted Lasso for leveraging the power of football to raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma, and celebrate mental well-being.
From the show, co-creator and cast member Brendan Hunt and cast member Kola Bokinni will accept the award on stage. “All of us at Ted Lasso are proud of the way the show has lifted up and normalised important conversations about mental health, and we have all been moved by the way these messages have resonated with so many fans and viewers,” Hunt said.
“It is truly an honour to have that recognised by an organisation like Grassroot Soccer that is doing such critical mental health work directly with young people.” SNF will be honoured with the Game-Changer Award for their global commitment to mental health.
SNF has provided foundational and transformational support for Grassroot Soccer’s mental health work in Africa, including the development of MindSKILLZ, Grassroot Soccer’s signature mental health promotion and prevention programme for adolescents. Guiding attendees through the evening will be Gala Host June Sarpong OBE; TV presenter, diversity expert, award-winning author, and former Director of Creative Diversity.
“Adolescence is such a uniquely exciting yet challenging period of life, and it’s so critical that young people have the tools to prioritise their mental health,” Sarpong said. “Grassroot Soccer is providing so many youths with this essential support, and I’m so excited to be part of an unforgettable night supporting their work.”
The evening is supported by SNF, Goldman Sachs, Getty Images, Vitol Foundation, and more. The Gala reception sponsor is Chapel Down, the wine sponsor is Rupert Wines, and the after-party is sponsored by Casa Dragones, JJ Corry, and Malachite Gin.
The evening will also include live and silent auctions featuring experiences provided by Adidas, Ferrari, Stella McCartney, Jack Whitehall, and more celebrities and brands. Grassroot Soccer’s World AIDS Day Gala is the organisation's biggest fundraiser of the year, raising over $1.5 million to support its global adolescent health programmes.
Prominent figures participating in past galas have included David Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson, Seth Meyers, Al Gore, Jürgen Klopp, Christian Pulisic, Anastacia, Roger Bennett, Siya Kolisi, and more. Watch the 2022 Grassroot Soccer Gala highlight reel here.