Players need a purpose: organizations like Right to Dream and Common Goal are tackling this thirst in the soul | Football news

Football is changing. From Marcus Rashford running social policy to Juan Mata helping launch an entire movement, the modern player wants to make a difference. It comes from a desire to change the world around them, but also how they think about themselves.

“I think it’s because of people’s thirst in their souls,” says Tom Vernon air sports. The founder of the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana and co-owner of the Danish club FC Nordsjaelland is helping to quench that thirst by using both for Common Goal.

Right to Dream is the first ‘sport for good’ brand to pledge to donate one percent of its revenue to charitable causes. The organizations will combine resources and even provide 10 £20,000 grants to budding entrepreneurs to develop new football projects.

“It’s essential that you don’t just look inward,” Vernon says. “We have to contribute to other goals. That’s the glue in the ecosystem. Common Goal and the philosophy they have is something we all passionately believe in. The idea is to unite the football family.”

That idea is gaining traction. When Michael Jordan refused to support the African-American Democratic candidate in his home state and joked that “Republicans also buy sneakers,” that became the credo for a generation. But there are now signs that the stick-to-sports era is over.

“I never considered myself an activist,” Jordan said later. “I saw myself as a basketball player. That’s where my energy was.” The modern athlete has a different mentality. They want to show what they believe in – and they need something to believe in.

People crave meaning in life. We all want to have a purpose. Psychologists believe that it is fundamental to lead a fulfilling life. The limited scope of a sports career – eat, sleep, repeat – cannot satiate every player for a long time. Many now want to do more.

What happens once the mountain is climbed? When the childhood dream is realized and the contract is signed. There are people whose descent into addiction can be traced back to the day they won their first cap. No more worlds to conquer.

For others, that moment of emptiness, the dimming of the light, comes with financial security. The family is taken care of. The parents have their house. With greater wealth at play, that is a point many reach much sooner than before. What then?

Ambition greater than the game itself can propel a player through a career and beyond. That could explain why many are turning to charities – and not just through their own foundations, but alongside larger enterprises that bring people together.

Tom Vernon from Nordsjaelland and Right to Dream
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Tom Vernon is co-owner of FC Nordsjaelland and founder of Right to Dream

Mata, the Spanish footballer who helped launch Common Goal in 2017, never wanted this to become his move. He’d rather be seen as the first to sign up. It was always about unity and teamwork, that sense of community. A common goal.

It touched something, but it was also a challenge for football. It is no coincidence that female players registered more easily than men. Big business brings complications and reveals something about the distance that can arise between player and audience.

“There is a professional football bubble,” explains Vernon. “It’s not the individuals who want to stay there. In most cases, they’re looking for more. We see it as our responsibility to pop the bubble and open their eyes.”

Juan Mata and Jurgen Griesbeck have launched the Common Goal initiative [MUST CREDIT: Max Cooke]
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Juan Mata on a trip to Mumbai as part of his Common Goal work [Credit: Max Cooke]

With that in mind, Simone Lewis, formerly of the Premier League, has been appointed head of goal at Right to Dream. “We have five full-time employees working to see how we can take our players on a journey to what makes sense to them,” added Vernon.

“There are trips and tours. They are designed as deep-end trips, so we’re not just going to play a football tournament somewhere, but it’s a real chance to immerse ourselves in the culture of the place we’re going to.

“We want players to get a deeper understanding. It’s about connecting them to things that are meaningful to them. The basic principle is that we can discuss this in class, but then we can create practical opportunities to develop that to build character and create impact.”

At first glance, breaking the bubble is a special challenge at FC Nordsjaellend. “The social security system here in Denmark is so advanced that you often don’t find those opportunities to connect with the community.” But they’re working to instill that ethos early on.

Emiliano Marcondes van Bournemouth was trained by Nordsjaelland and has continued to contribute. Last year he was in Ghana to score a free kick. This year he was in Brazil and Uganda where he invested in his own academy project.

“He got a bit of that initial spark from being involved in our program and our way of thinking. He’s excited about playing in the Premier League, but his other things inspire him just as much. It makes me feel good to to become the person he is.”

Emiliano Marcondes visits the Right To Dream academy in Ghana
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Emiliano Marcondes visits the Right To Dream academy in Ghana

And yet the idea persists that such matters are a distraction. Leave them for later. Focus on the football. Former Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the same when he speculated about Rashford’s drop in form last season. Vernon was not impressed.

“I think Solskjaer made such a disappointing comment when he said that about Marcus. I just don’t understand what the expectation is for these players after they leave training, meaning they lose focus doing things like Marcus and John do.”

“Is it really the case that we would all rather have them play FIFA all day on the PlayStation than get involved in these meaningful conversations and design projects that can have a real impact on other people’s lives? I really get it not.

“I know the demands of professional football can be quite intense at certain times. But there are hundreds of hours in the year when you can really tap into your wealth, experience, platform or network to connect with in a more meaningful way. the society. “

That can be the difference between being happy or not.

Former Manchester United scout Tom Vernon is now chairman of FC Nordsjaelland and the founder of the Right to Dream academy in Ghana {Credit: FCN]
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Vernon Admires College Structure in American Sports

“We are in this mental health pandemic in the west and there are many solutions to that problem. The fundamental point is that those connections that help and develop other people are the root of where people feel most happy.

“This connectivity that Common Goal stands for is super important because it gives people the opportunity to live a healthier and more meaningful life. It has all the performance benefits that come from feeling good about yourself and your role in society.

“I know players, both world-class players and Right to Dream graduates, who are excited about retirement. If you’re lucky enough to play on a team that can win a trophy, there’s excitement about that, but there are others who excited by other possibilities.

“They’ve done the football thing and found their level. They’ll continue if they can until they’re 35 because they still have a basic love of the game, but there are things that they’re starting to imagine outside of football that makes them more more exciting than the daily routine.”

Juan Mata's work on the Common Goal project [MUST CREDIT: Max Cooke]
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Juan Mata played a key role in launching Common Goal [Credit: Max Cooke]

The public perception of Rashford and Mata is overwhelmingly positive – and this is beginning to revolutionize the way advisors now view their actions. Sponsors are drawn to them. It is commercially viable to take a stand. It makes sense to get involved.

“People now know it’s a good idea commercially,” Vernon says. “If you look at Marcus’ sponsorship portfolio, I’m pretty sure it would be significantly higher than those players who do their stuff in the shadows or do nothing at all.

“So you start to get commercial directors at clubs and agents who say, ‘Yeah, maybe this makes sense and we should do it.’ Even if it’s from a commercial point of view, it’s an easier conversation than when we started thinking and talking 15 years ago.

“It’s about finding the right balance and it’s not a commercial motive to begin with. Going back to Marcus clearly that wasn’t a calculated commercial decision, it was driven by motivation and empathy for a purpose and then it starts rolling in somewhere .”

Marcus Rashford received his MBE from the Duke of Cambridge
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Marcus Rashford receives his MBE from the Duke of Cambridge

This shift in thinking, this realization that there is more to life than just selling sneakers, is already happening outside of football. “Some other sports are a little further down the road.” Vernon cites examples from American sports.

“I think the university structure there is a great stepping stone because it keeps the mind broader, so these concepts come out more easily. There’s definitely a risk with the way the European academies are structured, where it limits your thinking so much.”

But football is fighting back. A Nordsjaellend graduate leaves and shares his ideas with other clubs. A Common Goal member discusses his reasons for joining with a teammate. After all, the power of football, the power of purpose, could change everything.

“If you calculate what that one percent could do if we all got involved, that’s pretty remarkable. It would do what FIFA should have done, but much more effectively than they did it. Our job is to do our one percent and keep talking about it.”

Right to Dream and Common Goal Partnership Explained

Right to Dream becomes the first ‘Sport For Good’ brand in Common Goal’s 1% community to embed the 1% commitment across the entire organization.

The two organizations will combine knowledge, resources and work closely together to advance social impact projects, new business development and organizational growth initiatives that help drive large-scale change in football on a larger scale through the value and power of football, the community and the development of young players and future leaders.

The impact partnership is launching the “Purpose Project Platform” which will provide ten £20,000 grants to aspiring social entrepreneurs over the life of the partnership, which will enable athletes and other individuals in football to develop and launch targeted projects through football.

The partnership launches ‘Football Leaders Connect’; an annual gathering of football executives, club owners, athletes and other football industry leaders committed to embedding positive social and environmental impact at the core of the industry.

Right to Dream and Common Goal will publish an annual ‘Football Purpose Report’ highlighting social innovation within sport, sharing roadmaps and best practice suggestions for other stakeholders in football, such as the clubs, and will seek to promote the success and measure progress on benchmarked social issues from one report to another.

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