14 August 2017




Soccer is the world’s most popular sport with over 3.5 billion players and fans worldwide that support a multi-billion dollar industry led by some of the most recognized athletes on the planet. Soccer has also become one of the most powerful tools for tackling social issues affecting vulnerable young people around the world. In South Africa, soccer is a medium to teach young people how to avoid HIV and Aids. In the slums of India, soccer gives young homeless girls a sense of belonging and a safe environment to protect them from abuse. In Iraq, soccer is helping refugees displaced by ISIS stay safe from landmines and unexploded bombs.


To discuss the impact and role of soccer in an increasingly divided world, 100 innovators from the worlds of sports, media and business gathered on the evening of Tuesday, July 18th, at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. During the event, the audience of change-makers was introduced to some of the streetfootballworld initiatives already unlocking the potential of soccer to affect social change, such as ‘the third half’ and ‘Supporters Club’. A panel discussion with a Q&A and a networking session followed to spark further inspiration and ideas.


During the panel discussion, Manchester United Midfielder Juan Mata shared his experiences from a recent trip to Mumbai, India, as part of his role as streetfootballworld Global Ambassador: “This was a very important trip for me, to really understand how people are living day to day and, at times, it was very emotional”, said Juan, who spent time with streetfootballworld’s network member OSCAR Foundation, an NGO that uses the game to tackle social issues, such as lack of education and child marriage in the Ambedkar Nagar slum of Mumbai. “I think it’s very important for players like me to have these experiences, to see first-hand how people live in difficult situations. It made me more determined to do everything I can to use my influence for good”.


Juan was joined by streetfootballworld Founder and CEO Jürgen Griesbeck and Sebastian Buck, Co-Founder of the creative design agency ENSO. The panel, moderated by Mike Geddes (streetfootballworld Managing Director USA and BBC expert on racism, corruption and violence in football), discussed the potential for soccer to become a force of mass social influence and transforming from a multi-billion dollar business to a social enterprise. 


Talking about the scale of streetfootballworld’s CEO Jürgen Griesbeck commented: “In terms of participation we are the number three football association in the world after the US and Germany With female participation we are number two after the US, if we were a territory. – Just to put some numbers to it”, he explained, “so that we know what we’re talking about when we talk about football for good and the potential also of contribution to football.”


“There are very few things in the world that have the same power as soccer”, added Sebastian Buck, who has advised brands like Google and Starbucks on their consumer engagement strategies, “I think what streetfootballworld is doing is incredibly inspiring”.


Reflecting on the connection of soccer to social impact, Buck commented: “Brands are seeing diminishing returns from traditional approaches and I think people are looking to support brands that are doing meaningful work.” According to Buck, the major sponsors of soccer therefore need to: “be feeding the game and feeding the communities of the fans of the game and of their customers.”


Food for thought to motivate the attending group of innovators in their efforts to endow the “beautiful game” with a profound sense of purpose.

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