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Never Lose Your Smile — On the Road with Shinji Kagawa

In June of 2019, Common Goal member Shinji Kagawa, arguably Asia’s most notable footballer, took a visit to Tacloban in the Philippines, to visit FundLife International, one of the organisations he supports within the framework of the Common Goal movement

FundLife International is a football for good organisation which uses football as a tool to provide the right to play, holistic education, and equitable opportunities for children and young people to fulfill their potential. Using a sustainable behavioural change model, the programme encourages children and youth to identify and pursue their dreams, as well as provides access to opportunities and a path to break from the cycle of intergenerational poverty and dependence.

Throughout his visit, the children from FundLife International spent many active hours of the days with Kagawa, touring him around their communities, their homes, and their lives. Despite the different cultural backgrounds, their genuine passion for football was easily communicated and as the days progressed, cultivated into a meaningful message that became clear for both the youth of Tacloban and Shinji Kagawa himself:

While in the Phillippines, Kagawa visited several schools and communities to learn more about the devastating effect that Typhoon Hayian had on the children and how football, education, and community have revived the spirit of the people. In the north of Tacloban, it was quite visible the challenges that children would go through on a daily basis in relatively vulnerable communities. The goal of Kagawa’s trip to Tacloban was not only to engage youth in Asia with a living example of an Asian success story but also to encourage and spark tenacity within the kids themselves to see their own potential as global changemakers on and off the pitch.

Each day, the population of Tacloban faces varying challenges from health & well-being infrastructure to a lack of quality education resources, but they don’t shy away from adversity easily. And for many, football is where they can take those worries off and let their dreams grow into possibilities. When Shinji came to Tacloban, the goal was to cultivate these possibilities into livelihoods for each and every child.

In a landscape of media where young people are familiar with seeing western players in developed settings thrive in the football industry, it can be easy to neglect the idea of a pitch for footballers of all backgrounds. As one of Asia’s most notably creative and skilled footballers, Kagawa stands at only 173 centimetres, as living proof that his dedication to the game, personal style, and sportsmanship speak louder to the volume of success than any height — something that should inspire Filipinos to take up the game as a genuine aspiration.

Today, FundLife has created 5 safe spaces to displaced kids to play, while the Football For Life project employs 20 local community youth champions who reach up to 1,000 children across 10 marginalised communities each week.

Common Goal is uniting the football community in tackling the greatest social challenges of our time. And we can use your help. Join the team at www.common-goal.org

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