Our Football4Good December 2019 Issue is available now. Click here to read the magazine in full.
Foreword: September 23, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy: The world of football in one room, waiting for one of the most important off-the-pitch moments to commence. This gathering prompts the question: What makes a player the best?
When Jürgen Klopp addresses the audience upon receiving the award of Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2019, instead of talking about his individual achievement, the Liverpool manager uses the occasion to share the news that he is joining the ‘Common Goal family’.
He announces that he is pledging 1% of his annual salary to the movement of professionals in the football industry changing the lives of disadvantaged young people all over the world — and crashes our website in the process.
Klopp was one of three Common Goal members nominated across different categories at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2019. The other two were Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, two of the first football professionals to join the Common Goal movement in 2017.
Like Klopp, Rapinoe — award recipient in the women’s player category — also decides to use the moment for something that goes beyond her individual success as a player, and calls to action to her fellow football players to ‘lend their platform to other people, lift other people up, share their success’.
Klopp and Rapinoe are not the first athletes or pro footballers with a social purpose. They belong to a growing generation of ‘athletes with purpose’ that are acknowledging their potential to share their success, to be part of history, and change things for the better.
As we so often hear nowadays, they have a platform and they want to use it for something else, something beyond personal accolades. They have a vision of the world that runs beyond their performance on the pitch, grasping the privilege of their position to influence, mobilise and drive social change.
With increasing media coverage, this trend is competing with football’s other grand narrative, the one of an economic powerhouse that the industry has created over the past 30 years, where double-digit percentages of growth, even during the global financial crisis, meet an increased reputational crisis.
While the likes of Klopp, Serge Gnabry and Eniola Aluko represent a new era of athletes that think differently, there is also a new generation of fans that want to see more of the first and less of the second narrative. We hope this counter narrative to the football industry crisis may have a ripple effect that will shift its course from trend to norm.
How? Players understand that they can take on a role in society and use their voice for something that will transcend their football career. In parallel, new media recognises the value of those stories and the increasing demand from fans to hear them, and so does traditional media.
In this way, football could gradually become responsible for what starts as a new trend, eventually becoming the norm. Because, not only is it contagious and rewarding to change the world ‘for good’, it is also becoming an important element of a player’s brand or a player’s success.
Some might say: is it asking too much from players? Are they not supposed to be playing football?
But why not consult FC Nordsjælland, which we take pride in having welcomed as the first club to join Common Goal in 2018 — they constantly prove how football can go a step further.
They stand by their motto ‘Better person, better player’, placing a strong emphasis on character development. For them, instigating values, providing a different education for their players, is what eventually will also support them to succeed in their football career.
We are not talking about fast-track training on ‘how to be a good person (and potentially build your brand around it)’, but a shift in football culture that enables football players to develop a different vision of the world, one that enables them to make strategic and informed decisions both on and off the pitch.
Over the past three months, we have been discussing this topic with many of the Common Goal members and we take the opportunity to share with you in this issue some of these conversations with Giorgio, Eniola, Siobhan and Serge, among others. And, of course, we continue to provide a window through which to regard the field of football for good, for the Common Goal community to keep enjoying how football is changing lives.