GGWCup’s Majken Gilmartin: Playing Ball is an Amazing Motivator to Save The World

7 mins

Majken Gilmartin is the co-founder of The Global Goals World Cup (GGWCup) a women only football tournament that involves teams scoring goals to save the world by supporting one of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. The GGWCup – which advocates female empowerment – has travelled the world and comes to Dubai this Friday, Jan 19th, where a host of teams will battle it out to save their chosen goal. We speak to Majken to find out what we can expect and what drives her to save the world with football

The Global Goals World Cup (GGWCup) which aims to  eradicate world issues including poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change via an open women’s football tournament is taking place on January 19th, 2018 at Dubai’s Sustainable City.

Spectators can expect no ordinary football game. The all female players – highlighting the need to empower young girls and women globally – don’t score for their country but rather for one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) outlined by the United Nations as the change needed to save the world by 2030. The wining team won’t only be brilliant on the pitch but will have advocated loud and clear for their chosen SDG in the months leading up to Friday’s finale.

But first, we speak to Majken Gilmartin, the co-founder of the GGWCup and founder of Eir soccer who developed the tournament in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme.

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Teams play for one of their chosen SDG’s. Image: GGWCup

You started out as a movie producer in Denmark, founded non-profit sports organisation Eir Soccer then co-founded the GGWCup – how did this transition come about?

Fifteen years ago I was asked by a Danish politician if I would help try to create more active images of women in media, so I started these loud football tournaments for women at fashion weeks, music festivals etc. It was football & fun with a twist of famous – to attract a great crowd. I did those for many years while I was producing films. Then in 2009 the Mayor of Copenhagen asked me if I would be head of sports in the capital while Denmark was hosting the Olympic host city meeting for the 2016 Olympics – So I jumped in.

What challenges did you face getting the GGWCup tournament onto the global stage?

Ha! Lots, but only in a fascinating way… what do people project a World Cup to look like? Can you mix activism with sport? Creating new partners with people who are active for the Global Goals, but have never seen sport as their thing. We are always reaching out to other sports organisations to get them engaged in this world agenda. I think we can do so much more.

Has the support of celebrities such as Nikolaj Coster Waldau -better known to many as Jamie Lannister on the hit series Game of Thrones – helped promote the  GGWCup?

Absolutely. And in a very solid meaningful way. Nikolaj has joined us several times now so it was never just a photo opportunity for him – he engages with the teams, he listens, talks, plays and is amazing with the media. Not only that but he is wonderful at giving inspiring talks about the things we can all do – to create the change we need in the world.

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Nikolaj, who is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador – often participates at the GGWCup as an honorary referee. Image: Flickr

What GGWCup achievements are you most proud of? 

The teams. It blows my mind to see these women around the world, get together and do things not just for themselves, which is also great, but for others and the world. Just thinking about it can make me burst into tears, this world cup is built by amazing women showing up. Then it also makes me really proud working with a group of women like sustainable Mindz here in Dubai –  the trust that we have build on hope, dreams, passions and serious hard work, just because we all said – lets do it!

It blows my mind to see these women around the world, get together and do things not just for themselves, but for others and the world. Just thinking about it can make me burst into tears, this world cup is built by amazing women showing up.

You were recently awarded the IOC Women and Sport Award Europe for promoting gender equality in sport – what are the main challenges in achieving those goals?

Sport was designed by men and I believe the ‘strongest and fastest’ approach we all follow now is out dated, I believe it will change and fresh ideas will arise. What we need now is to ensure that we as women trust that the world is also ours, that we can love our cultures but we can also challenge them. Lots of laws around the world should also be changed, not only in sport. But I start there, hopeful that it can impact other issues in the future.

Majken Gilmartin

Majken (far right) with some of the UAE GGWCup members – including UAE’s Sustainable Mindz organisers(centre) on training day ahead of Friday’s tournament

Do you think we will reach a time when there is gender equality in sport?

I have to say yes. But, will I get to see it, will it happen in my lifetime? Hmmm…

The GGWCup is coming to the Middle East for the first time this weekend (Jan 18th& 19th) – what are you most looking forward to on the day?

Seeing all the teams, I always get so emotional. I just love seeing them arrive, getting on the field, going all in playing ball, and then creating these great friendships across teams. I can truly recommend just watching the teams that day, on and off the field.

Every team carries out actions to support one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals such as Gender Equality, Life Below Water with the hope of changing the world through their actions. What is the ultimate goal of the GGWCup?

In 2017 we had 1000 women play in our tournaments, if we get 1000 players every year until 2030 when the Global Goals must be reached, our teams will have carried out two billion actions for the world! That gets me up in the morning, that would just be so crazy, wild.

Majken Gilmartin

Majken holds up one of the team’s chosen SDG flags at training day in Dubai

Your Eir Foundation developed the only ball designed specifically for women – is there enough awareness out there that women/girls shouldn’t be playing with conventional size 5 footballs?

Not not at all – we silently accept 6 times as many injuries in women’s football than in mens, and the ball has a huge impact. But I think part of it was that many older players, we felt that it was equal rights to play with the same size as men. But of course, when you really think about it thats very silly. Equal rights would be playing with a size that fits us and make us play safer and faster. We will get there one day, and I am really proud of the work I did on the ball.

Majken Gilmartin

Majken gives out words of wisdom to the UAE teams ahead of the tournament taking place on Friday 19th jan 2018.

What legacy are you hoping to leave in every country in which a Global Goals World Cup is held?

Lots of friendships with players and partners and friendships between all those participating. That all players really feel that they belong in the world and that playing ball and having fun are amazing motivators for really taking actions to save the world. That in itself can be a real extreme sport.

The GGWCUp is taking place on Thursday and Friday 18 & 19th January 2018 at Dubai Festival City between 4-9pm. Entrance is free and encouraged!

To find out more about the Global Goals World Cup visit here

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