Let’s Create Our Own Legacy: Football For Good

The world is in flux. Governments are changing. Living standards are falling. Goalposts are shifting.

Globally, movements are forming to prevent divisive and oppressive forces from harming populations. Movements include schoolgirls in Iran striking in protest at the deaths of Mahsa Amini and Nika Shakarami and to campaign for better rights and freedoms. Closer to home, we’ve seen airline companies cancel deportation flights to Rwanda after public pressure and UK nurses striking for the first time.

Among all this, there’s a World Cup approaching.

Nestling itself in the middle of a Premier League season at the height of a British winter, this World Cup is different to anything we’ve known before. And it’s extremely controversial. Talking about the World Cup this year is more divisive than ever.

In Russia, the previous hosts of the World Cup, thousands have been arrested protesting the war in Ukraine. In Brazil, the World Cup hosts in 2014, the results of a new election have pitted both sides against each other. The question overhanging Qatar is - will the World Cup leave a legacy that leads to positive social change?

Historically, I always felt unity in football was about a shared desire to win. It’s what you hear on the telly when pundits talk about what it takes to be champions. The logic follows that if we - the fanbase, the players, and the team - come together, the strength of our unified force will be unbeatable.

Since I’ve worked for FBB, I’ve seen how real unity in football is actually about supportive relationships forged through shared experiences and emotional empathy. People who understand your perspective, share your passion and believe in your vision.

It has often felt like a lack of footballing success has meant the country as a whole has fallen short at World Cups.

For the first time in my living memory, England enters a tournament under the bright spark of success. The Lionesses achieved what the country had been waiting 56 years for. The legacy of the Qatar World Cup for English football is not one of success or failure, and it’s all thanks to that victory. Winning the Euros means silverware has been secured, safely in the bag.

We stand at a crossroads. Route one is to take the path we have always trodden, where victory is the most important goal. Route two, however, presents something bigger. Something that means more. It is the chance to focus on a different kind of legacy. A legacy that makes us proud of what football can achieve. A legacy we can co-create as fans, players, educators and a movement made up of everything good in football. A legacy that is inclusive, courageous and driven towards a common goal. Using football to transform society for the better. Football for good is a movement we want to see.

Leaders are here one day and gone the next, but movements persist. The World Cup will only run for 28 days. It was 2nd December 2010 when the FIFA Executive Committee convened in Zürich to decide where the 2022 World Cup would be held. There was a widespread backlash, and a huge number of people have been left disappointed with the response of international governing bodies.

Despite that reaction, the football community can ensure the World Cup leaves a legacy that improves society. For those who play football, it’s their dream to make it on the plane. For those who watch football, it’s often the moment their love is born. For those that work in football, these tournaments draw the world’s eyes towards our sector.

Let’s ensure they leave with a glint and a vision of what’s possible.

James Reeves is Football Beyond Borders Senior Press and Advocacy Manager

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