Written by By Stephanie Gerber, CNN
These days football star Lionel Messi is probably best known for his gorgeous hair, but for more than a decade — more than 15 years now — the central defender of the Argentine club Boca Juniors has been captivating the world. And in this case, some have called him the “Nuclear World Footballer.”
Speaking on a panel at the Energy and Climate Summit in Paris on Monday, Messi, who is now the captain of Barcelona football club and the world’s best paid athlete, was asked why his millions of followers are never likely to hear him talk about climate change or the environmental concerns he faces while on the pitch.
Lionel Messi says he is an ardent defender of the environment — via his @Messi2020 account on Instagram. Credit: @inga_official/Getty Images
“Because I don’t think it should be on the pitch,” he said. “That has been my responsibility. It’s something that I feel is important.”
The 28-year-old insists that if the world spends more of its energy on stadia and things like this (where games are played with energy-efficient lighting), rather than on exploring renewable energy, then “we could save the planet.”
“It’s already begun, because if we continue on the path we’re going, it can’t change,” he said. “And there are changes you can make.”
This was a tall order, considering he said that 20 years ago the world was making 400 milliampere per hour, while now it’s only 20.
“Soccer is a sport where energy efficiency was not quite the priority it is today.”
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Several advances have been made over the past 15 years to put more energy back into the game. Plastic refills have been reduced, lighting costs have been reduced, and all stadiums need to be air-conditioned.
Messi said the advantage in investing in green energy is that it hasn’t had a huge impact on players’ salary. Because teams don’t make the bulk of their profit in the first few years of the new stadium, in spite of intense efforts on the part of the club to ensure their facilities meet conservation standards, the investment in energy consumption has been made on a case-by-case basis.
He also said the standard of training facilities and conditions in stadiums have also improved, and that rules to prove that games are played with energy-efficient lighting apply to all stadiums.
But there’s still work to be done. He said that Brazil was still developing, for example, making its stadiums “somewhat of a problem” in terms of greening things. “We have to move forward and it can’t be about starting from scratch.”