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Ryan Porteous’ Common Goal

Things were different back then, Ryan Porteous recalls, reminiscing wistfully about a youth spent with jumpers for goalposts, dreaming of the opportunity to be able to play with his mates in ‘real’ goalposts. He’s right, things have changed. And in other ways, many things haven’t.

Younger people are far more inclined to play as their heroes on FIFA, than to go outside and try to become them. Whilst this is backed up with a plethora of data, it’s more than that. There’s a pervasive sense in Scotland that the youthful zeitgeist has shifted far from the moment when it was all about rushed down dinners after school just to get back outside for a game of football.

Amongst this societal shift, there are also some things that haven’t changed. A lot of young boys and girls are still using jumpers for goalposts on waterlogged and baubled pitches, rather than adequate facilities. As romantically as we remember the loosely strewn sweatshirts and laugh back at the countless arguments over what part of the jumper the ball flew over to determine whether it would’ve went ‘post and in’, or not, real progress at the top can only be expected with facilities that will encourage participation and growth - particularly considering Scotland’s inclement climate.

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It’s hard to pick apart the cause and effect here. The chicken or the egg. Are kids staying indoors because of this lack of facilities or is less money being funnelled towards developing these facilities in favour of other things that would be deemed as more useful? Porteous doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s definitely an active part of the solution.

Common Goal was established in 2017 by streetworldfootball, a German platform with the straightforward (on paper) mission “to identify, connect and empower community organisations that have demonstrated to have a sustainable social impact in their communities, and enable them to do more.”

This manifests as various social impact strategies that operate alongside their sponsors and partners, of which FIFA and UEFA are two prominent examples. For the last two decades, the organisation has devised innovative methods to harness the global power and appeal of football for larger social good. One of the ‘movements’ that have incubated under the platform as a part of the platform is the aforementioned Common Goal.

One name that most people will think of when the Common Goal initiative is mentioned, Porteous included, is Juan Mata. Upon launch back in 2017, the Manchester United and Spain ace waxed lyrical about the potential accumulated benefits for football players to donate 1% of their wage for the betterment of society through the game. The final goal, admirably, is for every single player in the mens and women's game to do the same.

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Speaking with The Players’ Tribune, Mata said, “I thought about everything football had given me. And I thought about what I wanted my legacy to be. I knew how lucky I was to have the opportunities I’d had — and that not everyone has a family like mine. And even though I’ve been engaged with charities before, I knew that I wanted to do something more. I want to make sure that other kids get the chances I had.”

The Spaniard added that, “Together we can create a movement based on shared values that can become integral to the whole football industry — forever. I am leading this effort, but I don’t want to be alone.” He certainly isn’t.

Mata is but one in a long list of esteemed names, ranging from hard-tackling with a heart-of-gold Juventus skipper Giorgio Chiellini to Bayern Munich’s tactical mastermind Julian Nagelsmann, that have become evangelical patrons of the cause. All of these players and coaches have their own reasons. The declining number of kids taking part in football is Porteous’. Beside the lack of facilities available for local kids, there’s an even more personal anecdote that the young defender shared.

Ryan’s sister Emma, similarly a football player for Hibs, never had the opportunity to turn professional. It wasn’t through lack of ability or desire, but opportunity. She’s a bit older than Porteous, so the gap between the men’s and women’s game was even more pronounced than now. Without a clear pathway at home, she headed to Pennsylvania for a university scholarship in order to gain access both to sport, but also to the reality that football might only take her so far.

How does Common Goal function? Members will donate 1% of their wage. Porteous acknowledges, humbly, that 1% mightn’t be much, but it is something. If we look through other members of the charity, a bigger picture forms. Suddenly, the pool of wages is much bigger. Suddenly, that 1% can do something, “It might sound like it’s nothing, but if 20 or 30 players from the top leagues can donate, you will start to see these small things grow and add up. We’re a lot stronger together.”

Perhaps what’s equally as important is the symbolic nature of the gesture. Porteous was eager, when presented the opportunity by his agency, to become the first top-tier male Scottish player on the list. Not for bragging rights, nor for a passive means of feeling good about himself, but about being a part of building a brighter future for football in Scotland, “I hope that a lot of people agree with me that the platform could help to introduce more people to playing football, and, down the line, help the Scottish national team reap the rewards.”

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