Former Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell said on Friday that eradicating malaria should one of the legacies of the first World Cup in Africa.
"Football is just a game, it only becomes important when it does something for humanity," said Bell, who helped make Cameroon the first African team to reach the Cup's quarter-finals in 1990 in Italy.
"People aren't very interested in Africa," said his compatriot Roger Milla, who scored four goals in Italy and celebrated each with a dance that captured the world's attention. "We are bringing our visibility to this cause."
Hours before the final draw in Cape Town for the 2010 World Cup, football stars joined with government and private businesses to a launch an education and awareness campaign to prevent malaria.
"I know a lot about malaria," Bell said. "I could have died before age five," like hundreds of thousands of children who die of the disease every year in Africa.
"I missed school, I missed practice, and I missed matches because of malaria," Bell said.
Malaria is spread by certain mosquitos, but is preventable and treatable. But the disease remains the leading cause of death among infants in Africa.
The illness costs the continent 12 billion dollars a year, due to deaths and lost work days, according to the United Nations.
The "United Against Malaria" campaign gathers national football associations from Ghana, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.