Social change through football – that’s the heart of the Mata

Manchester United star Juan Mata signs for #CommonGoal – the charity fund attempting to harness football's millions to effect social change

Neymar Jr’s £200million transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain is the latest reality-warping, big money move seemingly taking players, the clubs and even the game of football itself ever further away from the fan in the street.

But it’s not all doom, gloom and mind-boggling high finance.

This week, to kick off the new season, The Big Issue is teaming up with Southampton FC for a special matchday programme.

And in a further sign that football is finding its social conscience, Manchester United pass-master Juan Mata has joined forces with NGO streetfootballworld in a bid to harness the reach of this global sport to drive social change.

We can form a lasting connection between football as a business and football as a tool for social change.

Mata is the first footballer to pledge one per cent of his salary to Common Goal, a fund run by streetworldfootball supporting football charities around the world.

And the diminutive playmaker has challenged teammates, fellow players, and, eventually, the entire global football industry to follow suit.

“What we’re trying to do is define a shared social agenda for football,” says Mata, who hopes to find 11 players to join the Common Goal team.

I urge my fellow players to get involved

“Common Goal goes beyond individual brands and egos to deliver a greater impact. By making the pledge, we can form a lasting connection between football as a business and football as a tool for social change.

“One of the first lessons I learned in football is that it takes a team to win a game. We live by this mantra on the pitch, yet we rarely see it play out in the social impact space, which is dominated by individual initiatives.

“Through Common Goal we’re creating a collaborative way for football to give back to society. I urge my fellow players to get involved.”

According to streetfootballworld CEO Jürgen Griesbeck, the recruitment of midfield maestro Mata is just the beginning.

“Players are a great place to start because they’re the stars of the show,” he says.

“But this is the first step of a giant global endeavour. Imagine the entire industry uniting in the name of social change. Together we can usher in a new era for football and forge a deeper sense of purpose at the heart of the game.”

If Mata is able to persuade the powers that run football to join him, one per cent of every future transfer fee could goes to charitable causes. Neymar Jr’s record breaking sale to PSG? That would net charities around the globe a whopping £2million windfall.

Add a percentage of the wages earned by Mata and his teammates, and this could be an exciting development.

This, of course, is not the only positivity emanating from the English Premier League ahead of the 2017-18 season.

DID YOU KNOW…

In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.

Big Issue vendors will benefit from our unique partnership with Southampton FC.

Not only will they earn money from sales of the special edition programme (below), but they can also undertake an eight-week employability training programme at St Mary’s Stadium via the Saints Foundation.

It is, we all hope, the start of a beautiful friendship.

The Big Issue special Southampton FC match-day edition
This special edition of The Big Issue was sold across Southampton and Hampshire, and at St Mary's Stadium on match-day

So, as Mata, who so often conducts proceedings at Old Trafford, attempts to orchestrate a new way to channel football’s millions, and Southampton FC and The Big Issue showcase a new team spirit, are we witnessing a step change in the way the football industry operates? Let’s hope so.

With such high-profile support, perhaps football’s social conscience will begin to profit from the money that floods into the beautiful game…