Female leadership and new generation shining through as Common Goal eyes collective effort

By Sports Desk May 07, 2020

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

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