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Khalida Popal, Juan Mata and German Football Association honoured with UEFA #EqualGame Awards

UEFA #EqualGame

UEFA will present three #EqualGame Awards this week to celebrate outstanding work in promoting inclusion and diversity in football.

The winners – Khalida Popal, Juan Mata and the German Football Association (DFB) – have all demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in creating a more open, diverse and accessible game, providing a powerful example to follow during the 2020/21 season and beyond.

Each of the winners will be honoured at the UEFA Nations League draw on Thursday 16 December, which will be streamed live on and broadcast around the world from 18:00 CET.

Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA president:
“Each of these three #EqualGame Award winners is a fine example of how football can be used as a catalyst for positive change. They can and should be very proud of their achievements and I would like to personally thank them for their exemplary leadership that will, hopefully, inspire many others.”

Michele Uva, UEFA director of football social responsibility:
“Khalida, Juan and the DFB have all shown enormous heart and commitment. They have found ways to use their position in football to improve the lives of others and mobilise people around their important causes. Thereby, they are fantastic role models for all of us – for players, fans, national associations – to care about others, especially the weakest people in society.”

Khalida Popal: a shining light for women in football all over the world

Khalida Popal receives the #EqualGame Award thanks to her tireless work in fighting gender stereotypes and empowering girls, women and minority communities through sport.

Popal, 34, had to leave her native Afghanistan, where she was founder and captain of the women’s national team, ten years ago. While experiencing life in refugee centres in both Norway and Denmark, she used the power of football to help her and other women to overcome stress, trauma and depression and bring hope and joy to their lives again. Now settled in Denmark, Popal continues to use football to create social inclusion opportunities – she is founder of the Girl Power organisation and an ambassador for the Street Child World Cup.

Since the unrest in Afghanistan and fall of Kabul this year, Popal has worked tirelessly to evacuate the team’s players and make sure that they find a place to resettle.

Khalida Popal, #EqualGame Award winner:
“It is recognition not only for me and for my work, but it will inspire other women and girls to use their platform and the power of their platform and voices to make this game beautiful and more inclusive.”

Juan Mata: a uniting example from the Manchester United midfielder

Already a UEFA EURO 2012, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League winner, Juan Mata is also one of the most socially conscious active players around, setting the perfect example off the field with Common Goal, the charity he co-founded in 2017.

Common Goal makes positive change in socially challenged communities, using football’s power and popularity to tackle gender inequality, promote inclusion and provide more opportunities for underprivileged children.

By inspiring players, coaches and other personalities, including UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, to commit 1% of their salaries to the project, Mata is proving football can make a direct positive change to communities all over the world.

Juan Mata, #EqualGame Award winner:
“I was proud of the work that our organisations are doing there and proud of the stories of people that have overcome difficult problems. This is what we want to do through Common Goal – to give people a choice to decide their futures.”

DFB: commitment to football for everyone

The DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) is the biggest sports association in the world and sees it as its responsibility to promote football in Germany as a sport for everyone, with a strong and enduring focus on inclusion. The DFB champions diversity and its positive impact on football and society. Through its Football for All programme, the DFB is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment where everyone can enjoy the game.

The DFB was one of the first football associations to actively support refugees. What started with offering opportunities for refugees to play football turned into a huge inclusion programme. The DFB now also runs a leadership initiative to provide qualifications and integrate people from different backgrounds into their administration and volunteer programmes.

With a comprehensive action plan and resources in place for most diversity constructs in football, in January 2021, the DFB set up a national contact point for LGBTQI+ issues in football. The main aims of this independent entity are to increase visibility of LGBTQI+ communities in sport, develop and share best practices within football and work closely with all stakeholders towards more inclusive practices in the game.

DFB first vice-president Dr. Rainer Koch:
“The DFB is convinced that football is a strong force to foster social cohesion. Today’s award is for all people in the German FA working for an equal game, which nowadays is more important than ever.”

About the #EqualGame Awards

Since 2018, and under the banner of UEFA’s Respect campaign, the #EqualGame Awards have been celebrating individuals or football organisations that have acted as role models in promoting diversity, inclusion and accessibility in European football.