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Interview

Common cause

Thanks to his work with Common Goal, Juan Mata’s impact reaches well beyond the opposition penalty area

WORDS Simon Hart | INTERVIEW Caroline De Moraes

This is Juan Mata’s 15th season as a top-flight footballer. His professional path has taken him from Real Madrid’s reserves to Valencia and then on to Chelsea and Manchester United. It has brought fame and wealth and status (plus Word Cup and Champions League winner’s medals). But that’s not all. “It has definitely improved me or developed me as a person, that’s for sure. I always say the same thing: ‘Football is a great sport, but it’s much more than that.’

“I left home when I was 15, I had to mature earlier than probably the average age, [learning] to be alone, to live without your parents or your family, so it has made me a better person, I want to believe. It has made me [have] many great experiences in my life – getting to know people, helping people, being helped by people.”

It has provided a platform too. Today’s elite footballers have a voice which is heard far and wide. “We reach so many people, so we need to be conscious of what we say and I think people are now starting to realise that,” says Mata, citing the example of his Manchester United team-mate, Marcus Rashford, and his campaigning for free school meals for children from poor families. “He was one of those kids that he’s now helping,” says Mata, “so it’s very important for him and his family, the projects that they’re doing. Helping millions of kids in the UK, it’s a great job.”

“He understood the position, the reach, the platform we have as football players and he’s using it, from my point of view, for the right reasons. So, it’s him, it’s Raheem Sterling trying to tackle racism; many other players are realising that we can do something for others through the sport that we love.”

I always say the same thing: ‘Football is a great sport, but it’s much more than that’
By

Mata himself has used this platform to establish the Common Goal movement, set up in 2017 with Jürgen Griesbeck, the CEO and founder of an NGO called streetfootballworld. He asked fellow members of the football community to commit at least 1 per cent of their salary to supporting worthy causes worldwide. Where Rashford points to the memory of childhood hardship when explaining his efforts to effect change, Mata had a different kind of family example in his sister, Paula, who has worked on UN projects in Ethiopia and Iceland.

“She’s been doing amazing work around the world in different countries, and so she’s my mirror – I just want to be like her,” he reflects. “She’s living her life and using her time in many ways to help other people, and I thought that I could do the same since I’m a professional football player.”

Four years on, Common Goal now has more than 200 players and coaches signed up as members. Its supporters include Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, Bayern München winger Serge Gnabry, and Chelsea’s two-time UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, Pernille Harder; adidas have committed too. The charity has distributed more than €3m to 58 community organisations, as well as launching eight collective projects and a Covid-19 response fund.

“It’s been a great journey, over four years,” says Mata who, prior to the pandemic, visited projects that Common Goal supports in Colombia and India to see for himself the impact being made. “In some ways, it has been very quick, in others long and difficult, but overall, I’m very happy and proud of what we have done, of what we are as a movement.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the president of UEFA, Aleksander Čeferin, who is a member, or a player in the third division in England or Spain – for us, [just having] the will to join the movement is already a success. We have over 200 members, plus businesses, leagues, and other people and personalities in the football world, so we’re happy with where we are, and of course the dream of this movement since we started is that, out of the total revenue of profits from European football, 1 per cent of that goes to charity and to help many kids around the world through football. We’re getting there, and I think sooner or later, we will make our dream a reality.”

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Interview

Common cause

Thanks to his work with Common Goal, Juan Mata’s impact reaches well beyond the opposition penalty area

WORDS Simon Hart | INTERVIEW Caroline De Moraes

This is Juan Mata’s 15th season as a top-flight footballer. His professional path has taken him from Real Madrid’s reserves to Valencia and then on to Chelsea and Manchester United. It has brought fame and wealth and status (plus Word Cup and Champions League winner’s medals). But that’s not all. “It has definitely improved me or developed me as a person, that’s for sure. I always say the same thing: ‘Football is a great sport, but it’s much more than that.’

“I left home when I was 15, I had to mature earlier than probably the average age, [learning] to be alone, to live without your parents or your family, so it has made me a better person, I want to believe. It has made me [have] many great experiences in my life – getting to know people, helping people, being helped by people.”

It has provided a platform too. Today’s elite footballers have a voice which is heard far and wide. “We reach so many people, so we need to be conscious of what we say and I think people are now starting to realise that,” says Mata, citing the example of his Manchester United team-mate, Marcus Rashford, and his campaigning for free school meals for children from poor families. “He was one of those kids that he’s now helping,” says Mata, “so it’s very important for him and his family, the projects that they’re doing. Helping millions of kids in the UK, it’s a great job.”

“He understood the position, the reach, the platform we have as football players and he’s using it, from my point of view, for the right reasons. So, it’s him, it’s Raheem Sterling trying to tackle racism; many other players are realising that we can do something for others through the sport that we love.”

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I always say the same thing: ‘Football is a great sport, but it’s much more than that’
By

Mata himself has used this platform to establish the Common Goal movement, set up in 2017 with Jürgen Griesbeck, the CEO and founder of an NGO called streetfootballworld. He asked fellow members of the football community to commit at least 1 per cent of their salary to supporting worthy causes worldwide. Where Rashford points to the memory of childhood hardship when explaining his efforts to effect change, Mata had a different kind of family example in his sister, Paula, who has worked on UN projects in Ethiopia and Iceland.

“She’s been doing amazing work around the world in different countries, and so she’s my mirror – I just want to be like her,” he reflects. “She’s living her life and using her time in many ways to help other people, and I thought that I could do the same since I’m a professional football player.”

Four years on, Common Goal now has more than 200 players and coaches signed up as members. Its supporters include Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, Bayern München winger Serge Gnabry, and Chelsea’s two-time UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, Pernille Harder; adidas have committed too. The charity has distributed more than €3m to 58 community organisations, as well as launching eight collective projects and a Covid-19 response fund.

“It’s been a great journey, over four years,” says Mata who, prior to the pandemic, visited projects that Common Goal supports in Colombia and India to see for himself the impact being made. “In some ways, it has been very quick, in others long and difficult, but overall, I’m very happy and proud of what we have done, of what we are as a movement.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the president of UEFA, Aleksander Čeferin, who is a member, or a player in the third division in England or Spain – for us, [just having] the will to join the movement is already a success. We have over 200 members, plus businesses, leagues, and other people and personalities in the football world, so we’re happy with where we are, and of course the dream of this movement since we started is that, out of the total revenue of profits from European football, 1 per cent of that goes to charity and to help many kids around the world through football. We’re getting there, and I think sooner or later, we will make our dream a reality.”

Interview

Common cause

Thanks to his work with Common Goal, Juan Mata’s impact reaches well beyond the opposition penalty area

WORDS Simon Hart | INTERVIEW Caroline De Moraes

This is Juan Mata’s 15th season as a top-flight footballer. His professional path has taken him from Real Madrid’s reserves to Valencia and then on to Chelsea and Manchester United. It has brought fame and wealth and status (plus Word Cup and Champions League winner’s medals). But that’s not all. “It has definitely improved me or developed me as a person, that’s for sure. I always say the same thing: ‘Football is a great sport, but it’s much more than that.’

“I left home when I was 15, I had to mature earlier than probably the average age, [learning] to be alone, to live without your parents or your family, so it has made me a better person, I want to believe. It has made me [have] many great experiences in my life – getting to know people, helping people, being helped by people.”

It has provided a platform too. Today’s elite footballers have a voice which is heard far and wide. “We reach so many people, so we need to be conscious of what we say and I think people are now starting to realise that,” says Mata, citing the example of his Manchester United team-mate, Marcus Rashford, and his campaigning for free school meals for children from poor families. “He was one of those kids that he’s now helping,” says Mata, “so it’s very important for him and his family, the projects that they’re doing. Helping millions of kids in the UK, it’s a great job.”

“He understood the position, the reach, the platform we have as football players and he’s using it, from my point of view, for the right reasons. So, it’s him, it’s Raheem Sterling trying to tackle racism; many other players are realising that we can do something for others through the sport that we love.”

I always say the same thing: ‘Football is a great sport, but it’s much more than that’
By

Mata himself has used this platform to establish the Common Goal movement, set up in 2017 with Jürgen Griesbeck, the CEO and founder of an NGO called streetfootballworld. He asked fellow members of the football community to commit at least 1 per cent of their salary to supporting worthy causes worldwide. Where Rashford points to the memory of childhood hardship when explaining his efforts to effect change, Mata had a different kind of family example in his sister, Paula, who has worked on UN projects in Ethiopia and Iceland.

“She’s been doing amazing work around the world in different countries, and so she’s my mirror – I just want to be like her,” he reflects. “She’s living her life and using her time in many ways to help other people, and I thought that I could do the same since I’m a professional football player.”

Four years on, Common Goal now has more than 200 players and coaches signed up as members. Its supporters include Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, Bayern München winger Serge Gnabry, and Chelsea’s two-time UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, Pernille Harder; adidas have committed too. The charity has distributed more than €3m to 58 community organisations, as well as launching eight collective projects and a Covid-19 response fund.

“It’s been a great journey, over four years,” says Mata who, prior to the pandemic, visited projects that Common Goal supports in Colombia and India to see for himself the impact being made. “In some ways, it has been very quick, in others long and difficult, but overall, I’m very happy and proud of what we have done, of what we are as a movement.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the president of UEFA, Aleksander Čeferin, who is a member, or a player in the third division in England or Spain – for us, [just having] the will to join the movement is already a success. We have over 200 members, plus businesses, leagues, and other people and personalities in the football world, so we’re happy with where we are, and of course the dream of this movement since we started is that, out of the total revenue of profits from European football, 1 per cent of that goes to charity and to help many kids around the world through football. We’re getting there, and I think sooner or later, we will make our dream a reality.”

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