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Footballers waking up to societal issues and making a difference, says Juan Mata

Arsenal v Manchester United – Premier League – Emirates Stadium
(Image credit: John Walton)

Juan Mata believes football is entering a new era of social awareness after the success of Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign and his own ‘Common Goal’ charitable movement.

The Manchester United midfielder says the coronavirus pandemic has focused attention on inequality and injustice and impelled some of the game’s biggest stars to put their profiles to good use.

Mata said: “I think there is now a situation in which we football players are understanding our privileged position, our platform, and we know that we can help and do it in a very efficient way.

Juan Mata

Juan Mata works closely with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation (Laureus)

“We all have the same core values, and the important thing is that we go from inspiration to activity, to actually walking the walk.”

Co-founded by Mata in 2017, the ‘Common Goal’ initiative asked players and officials to pledge at least one per cent of their annual salaries to supporting charitable projects around the world.

This year, Mata’s charity initiative has been emulated by his United team-mate Rashford, who has effected changes in government policy after his campaign for an extension of the free school meals programme in England.

Mata added: “What he has done on the pitch for us and for the England team has been great, and he will keep doing that because he is a fantastic player.

“But especially over the last few months, what he has done helping so many kids with food, it’s just been great.

“He’s lived it himself, he’s suffered that situation through his family, with his mum, so he knows what he’s doing, and he knows how many people it’s helping.”

Marcus Rashford

Juan Mata hailed his Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford (Michael Regan/PA)

Mata is also a Laureus Ambassador and works closely with its Sport for Good Foundation, which has raised over £100million helping children and young people through sport since 2000.

He added: “I don’t think there is any better way to connect to as many people in the world, and of course football is the biggest sport in the world.

“2021 is going to be a very important year for sport in trying to help as much as we can to overcome this pandemic.”