Mastercard on Monday said it was changing a campaign in which thousands of free meals were to be given to the needy every time football superstars Neymar and Messi scored goals.
Under the scheme, every time the Brazil and Argentina strikers scored, 10,000 meals would be donated to the United Nations World Food Program.
The idea, due to run until March 2020, drew fire from many on social media who said it was in poor taste. Brazilian national team coach Tite also criticized it as counterproductive because it put too much pressure on individual stars.
The credit card giant, which sponsors both players and the Brazilian Football Confederation, says that instead a million meals will be donated in 2018, regardless of the goals scored. That is in addition to 400,000 meals already donated.
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“We don’t want the fans, players or anyone else to lose focus of the crucial question of hunger and our efforts to help this cause,” Mastercard said in a statement in Brazil.
On-pitch rivals Neymar and Messi will continue to cooperate for the campaign, the company said.
On Saturday, Tite had addressed Mastercard directly, saying that one or two players should not shoulder the burden of generating the meals.
“This is a very good gesture…, but it would be even bigger if the donation was made every time a goal was scored by all the athletes from Brazil and Argentina, because we play as a team,” he said, following Brazil’s pre-World Cup warm-up game against Croatia in Liverpool.