In Conversation With: Magda Eriksson and Pernille Harder
Pernille Harder from VfL Wolfsburg and Chelsea FC Women’s Magda Eriksson made headlines this year both on and off the pitch.
Pernille was dubbed UEFA Player of the Year, while Magda reached an impressive third place at the World Cup with Sweden.
Together, they have established themselves as role models, and as a symbol of inclusivity and open-mindedness in the football industry. Their most recent announcement is their joint signing with Common Goal. We travelled to Wolfsburg to chat with the movement’s newest members about the roles they aspire to play as part of the Common Goal team.
What was your motivation for signing up to Common Goal?
I was contacted through a mutual friend of ours, Ella Masar. She is actually a part of Common Goal and recommended us in the process, as she thought it would be something good for us. I’d heard a little bit about it before, but once I got into it and read what it was and heard what it stood for, it just felt like it was something that we’d been looking for. We’ve been wanting to give back in some way, but just haven’t found the right way and the right organisation to do it through. But I think this is a really good way of doing it. That 1% is clever. It feels like something we all could do. We’ve always wanted to give back in some way and this was the perfect solution.
Also, the possibility to choose ourselves what cause we want to give this 1% to was, I think, really important. The Play Proud project is a perfect fit for our values.
There are other big figures in the women’s game who are involved in Common Goal, such as Alex Morgan or Megan Rapinoe. It’s inspiring to see big name players like them, and like yourselves, signing up. Do you hope to encourage others to follow suit?
I heard I would be the first one from Sweden to join, and I hope to inspire more people to do the same. For me it was kind of like, ‘Why haven’t I done this before?’ It’s something that everyone should do. I understand we all have different economic backgrounds, but 1% of your income isn’t much. It’s a really good way of giving back to the community and to the specific organisation that you want to give back to. Hopefully I will inspire more Swedish players and you (Pernille) will inspire more Danish globally to do the same.
I think a lot of people will go into it once they know more about it and when we can tell them more about it, because it’s really easy. I mean, you tend to think when you donate something that it might be complicated, but it was super easy. I think, for me, that’s the thing, I was just thinking that I didn’t know where to start. Then, as soon as we established contact, it became clear that it would be very easy. And the good thing was also that we were able to describe what we really value and what kind of causes we want to donate to, and then Common Goal helped us in finding the suitable organisations. It’s important for us to know that we’re supporting a good organisation and to feel like it’s something that really matches our interests.
Yeah, it’s nice to know exactly where your money goes and that it supports a quality organisation.
You have spoken about the reactions to and impact that the photo of your kiss had during the World Cup. Has gaining such prominence and reach made you reflect on football’s impact on society? What cultural influence do you think you have, as football players and decision-makers?
It’s massive. Even something as small as a haircut can inspires kids to change their own hairstyle. I think we haven’t, as women football players, really understood this. At least, I hadn’t thought this until this tournament, when that picture went viral and I could see the response, and the reactions, and could hear what people had to say to us. It made me understand that, ‘Okay, I am actually a role model to people’, and it made me feel that I want to be the best version of me that I can be.
It’s the same for me. In men’s football, of course, the impact is really big and the players are aware of it. As for us women, we have to understand how women’s football has been growing during the last few years and how big it has actually become. We play as role models individually, but also together, having come out and having to be open about it. I didn’t realise until that picture came out how big of an inspiration we actually are for a lot of people.
Obviously a key feature of Common Goal is that it’s a collective effort. You are in a relationship and are very supportive of each other. Although you are playing for different clubs, through Common Goal, you will actually be on the same team, playing together for change. How does that feel?
It’s really nice to do something together, and also do something that really matters. I feel like it’s a really good time for us to delve more into this topic, so I really feel good about it.
It’s just nice to see it that way, that every player in Common Goal is actually part of a team. It just makes me feel like Common Goal is even more of a perfect fit, because that’s what we’re all about: collectiveness, helping each other out and also being aware of how privileged you are, and giving back because of that.
The football industry, particularly in the men’s game, but also increasingly in the women’s game, has a great economic potential that could be unlocked for social change. How does that make you feel, and what would be your message to decision-makers in football, or your peers, who might be considering something like this?
I mean, like you said, there’s a big potential of money to give back to good causes in the world, and it would be great for football as a sport to give back to society in a number of respects. I feel like I’m really happy to be a part of it now. Like Magda said, 1% of your salary is not that much. And for me it would be totally normal if everyone did it. Especially on the men’s side, where there is a lot of potential money.
Like you said, if we can reach the decision-makers in the clubs and even the bigger part of it, it would be even better. As individuals we can only go so far, but if we can do it together and collectively, it could become a massive way of giving back. Hopefully this will become the norm and more people will get inspired from seeing that. The more, the merrier.
You chose to support Play Proud, a cause particularly close to your hearts. It is an initiative that we are looking to expand globally in order to promote inclusion amongst as many people as possible and give LGBT+ youth safe spaces within sport. Could this be the way of shifting the collective mindset?
Play Proud is such a good initiative because they aim to educate the coaches and the environment in the team to be more accepting and to talk more about it. And I think that’s where you have to break the norm and to just talk more about diversity and about how people can be different with gender, with their backgrounds and the sexuality, of course.
And also the fact that they educate the kids. It’s much more difficult to change one’s mindset about homosexuality when they’re in their 20s, rather than when they’re only children and can understand that it’s just normal.
We are also providing the opportunity to visit and go there and actually see their work in action. How involved do you want to be in your position as Common Goal members?
Of course we want to be 100% focused on our football, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be involved in the project. I think that for me it’s a great project, and I really feel like I want to be involved a lot. I’m sure you (Magda) feel the same, because I think it’s such an important topic to talk about.
Definitely, for us it’s a matter of time and availability, but I agree that we also would like to go and see eye to eye what Play Proud actually do and what the money goes to. It would be very inspiring for us as well to see and to meet the young people that are benefiting from the initiative.
Although you’re both very young, in your career you have already achieved a lot. If you project a little bit into the future, maybe 10 years ahead, what is your wish for football, and in particular for women’s football? Also, what do you want your legacy to be when, in 10–15 years, you leave the footballing stage?
For women’s football, the aim is always to become equal to the men’s. We know that is a big step, there’s a big difference between men’s and women’s football, but the aim will always be that it should be equal. And that’s what we want to fight for until we stop playing, and maybe also after. And talking about Play Proud, we also want football to be an open environment, not only for one’s sexuality, but also for one’s background. It’s important to be able to feel that you can be yourself. I think that, in that regard, in women’s football we are much further than in men’s football, but I would love to see it happen in men’s football, because I really think that it’s sad that it’s not like this yet on their side.
Yeah, definitely. I agree. The ambition is, 10 years from now, for girls around the world to have the opportunity to become the best footballers they want to be. I think that’s a realistic aim. Regarding the pay gap, I think that will take a long time before it’s equal. But I hope to see an equality of opportunity to allow girls to become the best football player they can and want to become. And that all starts at the grassroots, in youth football. Also, the diversity part of it: that everyone feels like they can be themselves on the football pitch, and for people to not stop playing just because of their sexuality or their background. For football to become an open environment for everyone. That would be a goal and that’s what we want to encourage for the rest of our career and the rest of our lives, as role models.
The conversation with Pernille Harder and Magda Eriksson took place within the context of an interview with The Guardian newspaper.
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