"We want to find real, authentic human stories".
Sound familiar? If you are reading this, I am guessing so.
First, let me take you back to 2014. Two sports marketing types* dream up a fun, slightly crazy, idea to find interesting people from every country in the world, send them disposable cameras, and ask them to capture the story of their football lives and communities.
Three months later our first disposable camera arrives back from a church minister in Sierra Leone, who also happens to be the manager of the national amputee football association, SLASA. If we are being honest, we never expected to receive the camera back. The photos are unbelievable. His story is incredible.
Goal Click is born.
Fast forward 6 years. Photos from 100 countries, 250 storytellers, and 11 major exhibitions hosted around the world. Collaborations with adidas, FIFA, UEFA, and Homeless World Cup.
Goal Click’s purpose is to actually find and tell those real, authentic human stories that the sports world is craving.
Genocide survivors like Eric Murangwa in Rwanda. Kurdish football on the border of Islamic State. Ultras in Russia. Girls’ football teams in India and Pakistan. World-class players like Sam Mewis, Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead from the US Women’s National Team, Lyon and Arsenal.
All inspirational people given the chance to tell their own story through the common language of football. Using just their own photos and words. And yes, we are still using disposable cameras...
It is not always easy to find these important stories. Many of these voices are unheard or silenced. It takes patience, time, trust, and care to do them justice. But the results are worth it.
There is no “outsider” coming in to tell these stories. This is an “insider” view. We completely commit to giving our storytellers the power, control, and freedom to create and speak from their own perspective. No tourists allowed.
As Goal Click has evolved, we wanted to “zoom in” on specific cities, countries, tournaments and issues in the world.
Our series on Russia and Qatar tried to reveal the realities of football culture in those (much spoken about) World Cup host nations. And maybe bust a few myths along the way...
Our 2019 Women’s World Cup series with elite women’s players (launched with the New York Times and COPA90) gave an incredibly intimate behind-the-scenes look into women’s football. When else would Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan let someone photograph them in an ice bath?
Side note: When we first created Goal Click, I never expected to become “fluent” in 20 languages (thank you Google Translate), an expert on the standards (the good and the very, very bad) of postal services around the world, and possess a very “interesting” set of WhatsApp contacts spanning Syria, North Korea, Somalia and Iran.
And so, to 2020. Now more than ever is a time to hear the voices and see the perspectives of the marginalised and dispossessed around the world. And we live in a world where over 70m people are displaced through war and conflict.
This week, ahead of World Refugee Day, we launched "Goal Click Refugees” in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. We've been collaborating with refugees around the world to tell their stories, from displaced Syrians in Jordanian refugee camps to Sudanese and Congolese refugees in Kenya, alongside the experiences of Afghan refugees who have arrived in European countries.
In the same way as a professional footballer can affect government policy on school meals, framing difficult subjects like this through football allows people to understand someone else’s story and the world in a way that might not otherwise be possible.
In fact, most people may not be remotely interested otherwise.
There is a place in the world of football for fun, frivolous content. There is a place for award winning journalism. But there is also a place for powerful stories with real purpose, told by the people themselves in a deep, meaningful way.
These stories are not in distant places. They are in your own backyard. Whether you are in the UK or USA, Brazil or Kenya.
These stories also exist in the worlds of grassroots football, fan culture and elite football.
We have a social and ethical core, but this is not “CSR” or “charity”. This is a commercial and brand conversation. We are unapologetic about working with the communications and marketing departments of brands, clubs, and federations. This is how these stories get told.
My message to the sports marketing industry. Yes, those “real, authentic human stories” are out there. They take investment, time, and real commitment to tell them. But if ever there was a time to do it, isn’t it now?
*Shout out to Ed Jones, my co-Founder.