Thanks to his implication at Common Goal, an organization of which he is co-founder, he has received one of the #EqualGame’s award. Khalida Popal and the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) have also received the award. “We want people to be able to conduct their future,” said the international Spaniard.
The winners – Khalida Popal, Juan Mata and the German Football Association (DFB) – have all demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in creating a more open, diverse and accessible game, providing a powerful example to follow during the 2020/21 season and beyond.
Already a UEFA EURO 2012, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League winner, Juan Mata is also one of the most socially conscious active players around, setting the perfect example off the field with Common Goal, the charity he co-founded in 2017.
By inspiring players, coaches and other personalities, including UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, to commit 1% of their salaries to the project, Mata is proving football can make a direct positive change to communities all over the world.
— UEFA (@UEFA) December 15, 2021
Juan Mata, #EqualGame Award winner: “I was proud of the work that our organisations are doing there and proud of the stories of people that have overcome difficult problems. This is what we want to do through Common Goal – to give people a choice to decide their futures.”
Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA president: “Each of these three #EqualGame Award winners is a fine example of how football can be used as a catalyst for positive change. They can and should be very proud of their achievements and I would like to personally thank them for their exemplary leadership that will, hopefully, inspire many others.”
Michele Uva, UEFA director of football social responsibility: “Khalida, Juan and the DFB have all shown enormous heart and commitment. They have found ways to use their position in football to improve the lives of others and mobilise people around their important causes. Thereby, they are fantastic role models for all of us – for players, fans, national associations – to care about others, especially the weakest people in society.”
⭐ "I want to emphasise the importance of team effort to maximise the potential of football to tackle the many challenges that society is facing."
— UEFA (@UEFA) December 16, 2021
Since 2018, and under the banner of UEFA’s Respect campaign, the #EqualGame Awards have been celebrating individuals or football organisations that have acted as role models in promoting diversity, inclusion and accessibility in European football.
Khalida Popal, 34, had to leave her native Afghanistan, where she was founder and captain of the women’s national team, ten years ago. While experiencing life in refugee centres in both Norway and Denmark, she used the power of football to help her and other women to overcome stress, trauma and depression and bring hope and joy to their lives again.
Since the unrest in Afghanistan and fall of Kabul this year, Popal has worked tirelessly to evacuate the team’s players and make sure that they find a place to resettle.
The DFB is the biggest sports association in the world and sees it as its responsibility to promote football in Germany as a sport for everyone, with a strong and enduring focus on inclusion. Through its Football for All programme, the DFB is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment where everyone can enjoy the game.