Scoring Goals for a Sustainable World: UAE Hosts the Global Goals World Cup

6 mins

The Global Goals World Cup knows that playing the beautiful game can change the world. From saving the environment to eradicating poverty all you have to do is choose your sustainable development goal, support and play, says Anthea Ayache

An exciting global initiative is coming to the UAE next month: The Global Goals World Cup (GGWCup) which aims to score highly in eradicating world issues including poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change via an open women’s football tournament will be taking place in Dubai on January 19, 2018.

However, this is no ordinary football game. Female players – highlighting the need to empower young girls and women globally – don’t score for their country or city, but rather for one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) outlined by the United Nations in a bid to save the world.

While many of us have seen the term ‘SDG’ bandied around social media much like a football at training, what exactly are they?

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development were set up by the United Nations in September 2015 when 193 world leaders singled out 17 key areas of focus – known as Sustainable Development Goals that encapsulate 169 global problems –  that needed to be remedied by 2030. Their aim was to put global problems on a global agenda for all levels of society, not only governments, but the private sector and civil society.

The Global Goals World Cup

The Global Goals World Cup (GGWC) has sprung out of that vision as a way to capture the hearts and minds of every day citizens.

Supported by UN goodwill ambassadors including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – better known to many as Jaime Lannister on the hit series Game of Thrones – as well as the United Nations Development Project and Save the Children, tournaments have taken place from New York to Nairobi with teams supporting their favourite SDG, be that quality education, zero hunger, quality water, sanitation or one of the remaining 14 areas of global concern.

Global Goals World Cup

And now the opportunity to use the power of sport to change the world has come to the UAE.

The Global Goals World Cup will be taking place on Friday, January 19, 2018 under the patronage of the Danish embassy in Abu Dhabi, Save the Children International and the United Nations Development Programme. It will be supported by GGWCup ambassador and Bollywood superstar John Abraham, best known for his performance in Jism, which earned him a Filmfare Best Debut Award nomination.

‘The GGWCup is an amazing tournament that uses sports and women to inspire change and action,’ Abraham said in a statement. ‘The Global Goals are only going to work if we fight for them, and make sure that everyone knows about them. I am extremely happy to be associated with the GGWCup and I strongly believe that without the active involvement of women the SDGs cannot be achieved. I look forward to be part of the GGWCup in this region.’

Global Goals World Cup

UN goodwill ambassadors Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was referee at the GGWCup in Bangkok earlier this year. Image: iStock

Get Involved

While the tournament is open for the community to participate, corporates will also have a chance to get involved. Out of 24 teams needed for the tournament, 12 will be community groups – including two teams for under 18’s – while the other dozen teams will be representatives from the business community.

‘They can be groups of friends, they can be colleagues, they can be anything,’ says Dima Maaytah, one of the co-founders of Dubai-based organisers Sustainable Mindz. ‘We already have one school and two universities on board, which is great, because you want to see that collaboration between the young. This is the generation that will suffer in the end.’

So, if you want to dust off your football boots and kick a ball to highlight the change you want to see, do you need to be the next Lionel Messi? Absolutely not says Dima.

‘GGWCup is street soccer, so you don’t need to have any skills. The teams are only going to play for six minutes at a time through the knock out stages,’ explains Dima.

Global Goals World Cup

GGWcup Partners and Sustainable Mindz Founders Vineetha Mathew, Dima Maaytah and Noora Mohammad. Image: Supplied

While winning is crucial to any game, in the GGWCup it only counts for a quarter of the victory. This tournament is about saving the world as much as it is about team spirit. All teams will be awarded additional points for creative style on the pitch and actions taken to improve their chosen SDG.

‘If a team selects to represent SDG 14 Life Below Water,’ explains Dima, ‘they could raise awareness of the issues to engage their network via social media. They could arrange or attend beach clean ups, give talks in schools about marine pollution or simply encourage others to help. All of those actions would count as points towards their end result.

‘We’ve created a hashtag for exactly this that we’re calling 100 days of SDG action. So, we want people to use #100daysofsdgaction so we can see how people are participating.

‘What will determine who wins is who will take the most action for their chosen SDG, even if they score 1,000 goals on the day of the tournament.’

Global Goals World Cup

Teams will also get points for creative style on the pitch. Image:

So is winning only about saving the world?

While it’s 99 per cent of the reason for getting involved, the winning team will get a place in the global final to be held in New York City in September 2018 held during the UN General Assembly Week.

Partners for the event, including local home recycling service HomeCycle, and local water filter providers Liquid of Life, will ensure the tournament is as eco-friendly as possible. Filtered water will be provided to limit the number of plastic bottles used during the games while any trash that is generated will be recycled and repurposed.

‘We want to stay true to the message of GGWCup,’ says Dima. ‘We can’t do such an event with disregard of the environment. We are very conscious of impact this event can have.’

While Sustainable Mindz have received funding and sponsorship for the Global Goals World Cup, and teams who enter must pay varying fees for involvement, the whole tournament is not-for-profit.

‘We’re not doing this for money or for profit,’ explains Dima. ‘We are doing it because we believe in the SDGs and we believe that we need to bring them to the community, to the students, to the local businesses. Because together is how we will make a true difference’.

If you or your company would like to register for the Global Goals Wold Cup UAE you can find more information here

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