Juan Mata.

UTD Unscripted: Wielding the power of football

Saturday 11 May 2019 07:00

I’ve been very lucky to play for big clubs. To be a Manchester United player, to win trophies. But one day your career is over and it all goes.

Football has no memory. Once it goes, it’s past. I’ve enjoyed it, but that will be it. And then what? Well, I’ve been on an amazing journey for these last 20 months or so now, through Common Goal.

For those of you who don’t know, the idea is simple: everybody who signs up donates one percent of their wage, with all the proceeds going to global football initiatives which benefit disadvantaged children.
Why am I so passionate about it? Why do I use my time for it?
That’s what my girlfriend says to me!
It’s because I feel like something like this needs to be done, you know?
Through Common Goal, I have a different perspective of what you actually can do through football. Winning or losing will make a lot of people happy, but what about an actual impact to change people’s lives?
Through our movement we are trying to do that. It can be Common Goal, or another thing like it. But football needs to do something like this.
UTD Unscripted
Juan Mata on Common Goal says

"Why am I so passionate about it? Why do I use my time for it? That’s what my girlfriend says to me! Because something like this needs to be done."

When we started in 2017, I felt it was a time where football was going towards a direction that was very far from the people. And I think football without big people, and without fans, it’s nothing. 
So Common Goal is a way of connecting these two worlds to create a lasting and efficient bridge. It’s something that gives you deeper meaning of what playing football is.
When we started all this, you know, we didn’t know where it was going to end up. It was only myself joining the movement and making it public. There were challenges with time, with human resources. There were so many things to deal with. We’re growing the team now, but in the beginning it was a bit difficult, because we were not so many people. 
I feel so proud about what we are doing, and inspired by the stories of the many members that have joined, and the reasons why they have joined. 
One of the very positive things now is that we have members from the five continents – people from Asia, from Africa, from Australia and New Zealand, from Europe and America. That shows as well the globality of the movement.
We are very grateful to all of them because they felt like they wanted to participate in our movement. Every person’s story has its own particularly positive things – and funny things! 
We received an email from somebody claiming to be Giorgio Chiellini, saying that he wanted to join the Common Goal movement. That’s Giorgio Chiellini, captain of Juventus, legend of Italian football. It was a little difficult for us to believe in the beginning. So we did a FaceTime call the next morning and there he actually was!
I also received a message from Vero Boquete. Vero is one of the best female football players that we have in Spain, a legend of the game, and she sent me a message saying that she loved the movement and she was waiting for something like this, and that she would love to join.
UTD Unscripted
Juan Mata on Common Goal says

"We received an email from somebody claiming to be Giorgio Chiellini, saying he wanted to join. It was difficult for us to believe! We did a FaceTime call the next morning and there he was!"

It is very important also to highlight the amount of females that we have in the movement, which is almost 50 per cent. That speaks very well about women. About their courage and about their compromise with causes like this. And it speaks about the equality in the movement.

Probably, women are braver than us men in some aspects. I think that because they are in an unfair situation in football, probably they feel more like fighting for what’s right; for causes like this that try to promote equality and globality, and help the people that are not in a privileged position. 

I think that’s why we have so many female members. They don’t have massive salaries, but they still do it. That shows that they are really involved in our movement, and I’m really happy with them being with us.

But we have people from everywhere – from different leagues, from different levels, and we have even people that don’t play football. They just support football. 
They can join the movement through the website, and that’s what we want: not only football players to join, but everyone that loves the game, wherever they live.
I love travelling, and trips are great for many reasons. One of them is to know different cultures. Thanks to football, I’ve travelled around the world. But we don’t have too much time to see things. 
We go from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the stadium, and back to the airport. So we don’t really see where we are. 
I can visit some of the organisations that are in different countries – countries that I wouldn’t go to play football – and they obviously give me a lot in a personal experience. My first trip to one of the organisations we work with was in India, to visit the OSCAR Foundation, who work to help the kids in the slums of Mumbai.
Then last summer we went to Colombia. I supported an organisation called Tiempo de Juego on the outskirts of Bogota.
Both of the visits, in Mumbai and in Bogota, were very positive in terms of seeing what the organisations are doing, but they were tough for some moments, you know? 
Because I could realise the conditions or the circumstances that some kids have to live in, even nowadays, in some parts of the world.
UTD Unscripted
Juan Mata on Common Goal says

"It is very important also to highlight the amount of females that we have in the movement, which is almost 50 per cent. That speaks very well about women."

You could see the massive differences between people that have good facilities and money in these countries, and the ones that don’t. The gap is very big and quite extreme, and that was difficult to digest in the first hours of the trips.
Ashok is the person that started the OSCAR Foundation. I very much respect him because of what he’s done.  He created a big organisation that is now helping a lot of kids. And he started with nothing. 
He started because he wanted to do something with his friends to help people. 
People like Ashok, they are the ones that fuel this movement and the ones that actually do the daily work with the kids in the organisation. 
For us, for me, personally, they are the ones that everyone should speak about. The ones that really help in the actual organisations, and Ashok is only one example of that.
When we were there, in Mumbai, OSCAR took us around. They have managed to create some small offices, where they organise all the kids and all the paperwork and everything.
We visited the offices, and then we visited one of the classrooms that they have in Colaba, which is a big slum in Mumbai, where they teach the kids basic stuff – how to write, how to read, how to communicate – and we also visited a room where they had a few PCs, where kids could enter to use some sort of technology. 
Then in the afternoon we visited one of their football pitches, in which they work. I could interact with the kids; I could enjoy football with them. So it was very positive.
We could see the whole daily routine that they have to do. Basically, Ashok organises everything and has to be on top of the others leaders that he has in there, which are actually kids that have come through the OSCAR Foundation education system themselves.
Now they are the people that are leading the next generations. You can see how they help the kids to empower themselves. To be the owners of their own future. It was amazing to see.
UTD Unscripted
Juan Mata on Common Goal says

"Give people a ball to play with and tell them that this sport they are playing right now is probably the biggest force that we have in the world to unite people."

To actually go and see the positive impact that they are having on the kids, is the highlight of my work with Common Goal so far. It is something that I will keep doing as long as I can.
And I would encourage every member of Common Goal, or anyone, to actually go and see where their donations are going, because I think it’s important to feel involved with the causes, and the different charities our collective fund supports, especially with this movement.
The journey has been great, and busy! I think we have done so many things in just a few months.
Our aim is just to keep growing, to keep going with the movement, to try to connect professional football with football as a social tool for change, and welcoming everyone to Common Goal. We are so happy so far.
Personally, I am even more encouraged and more positive about it than I was at the beginning, if that’s possible. 
Even in the poorest, most remote parts of the world people have heard of football, of Manchester United. But, even if they haven’t, I would tell them that if they don’t know what football is, they should play. 
Give people a ball to play with, and while they enjoy it, tell them that this sport they are playing right now is probably the biggest force that we have in the world to unite people. 
Through Common Goal we are trying to use that power. We are trying to use the platform that we have to help them, or to help the many people like them. 
That’s why I’m even more inspired than I was at the beginning of Common Goal.  And even more inspired to keep going.

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