Jürgen Klopp had an announcement to make on stage at the Teatro alla Scala opera house in Milan last month.
The Liverpool manager was there to receive The Best FIFA Men’s Coach award in recognition of his success with the club during the 2018-19 season.
But the German also used his own moment of personal glory to express something he believed more worthy of the global audience’s attention.
From that day forward he would be a part of Common Goal, the movement which has seen a host of famous football figures pledge one per cent of their income to non-governmental organisations which harness the power of the game to enact positive societal change across the world.
“I want to use this stage to say one thing: this is an individual prize, I don’t 100 per cent understand individual prizes but I get it because I’m here for a lot of people,” Klopp stated.
“We are all on the really good side of life obviously, that’s why we are here. But there are people out there that have not exactly the same situation and I’m really proud and happy that I can announce from today on I’m a member of the Common Goal family.”
Our boss ❤️ #TheBest | #FIFAFootballAwards https://t.co/vwo5P0hURm— LFC (Liverpool FC (at 🏠)) 23rd Sep 19:02
The Liverpool boss rubbed shoulders with many of football’s biggest stars at La Scala, but his meeting with a man with whom he shares a nationality and a Christian name, two hours before the ceremony began, was perhaps more significant.
“It was a conversation we had before,” says Common Goal CEO Jürgen Griesbeck over the phone from the organisation’s headquarters in Berlin.
“We had come together in terms of Jürgen joining Common Goal, and were a month or two away from the fact, but we obviously didn’t know if he would win the award and have the opportunity of an acceptance speech.
“We met for the first time on the day, two hours or so before the event. At the end of the day, Jürgen is very spontaneous – it needs to flow, it needs to fit in with what he feels like saying. So it was uncertain until the last moments, but then he felt like saying it, and we were very proud in that moment.”
Willkommen Jürgen Klopp!! #TheBest FIFA Men's Coach☑️ New #CommonGoal Member☑️ https://t.co/mifD9KjDmd— CommonGoalOrg (Common Goal) 23rd Sep 18:55
Griesbeck has been dedicated to using football as a tool for wider good for 25 years now, ever since the 1994 murder of Colombia international defender Andres Escobar, whom he knew personally.
As a young PhD student living in Medellin, he immediately quit his studies and started a youth project titled Football For Peace, aimed at stemming the violence which was claiming 5,000 young lives a year in the city at the time.
Over the years, his projects multiplied and diversified, leading to him forming streetfootballworld – now a network of more than 130 organisations, including Common Goal – in 2002.
Common Goal has gone from strength to strength since it was given life by co-founders Griesbeck and Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata in August 2017, with star players from both men’s and women’s football, managers, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and even an entire club – FC Nordsjaelland of the Danish Superliga – making the one per cent pledge during that time. Isaac Christie-Davies of the Reds' U23s and Liverpool Ladies midfielder Christie Murray joined the campaign in July 2018 and May of this year respectively.
Even so, welcoming the involvement of the man who leads the reigning European champions, and someone whose personality and sense of humour have always enabled him to transcend tribal rivalries, is a significant coup for the project – as evidenced by the fact Common Goal’s website crashed on the night the announcement was made.
“We are incubating Common Goal out of Germany, and we have followed Jürgen for many years,” continues Griesbeck, who grew up just a few kilometres away from Klopp’s hometown of Glatten in south-west Germany.
“We’re at the beginning now, we’ve just completed the first two years, and it’s very much about the leadership and inspiration provided by those who have joined the movement. The financial contribution almost becomes of secondary importance; it’s part of the mechanism obviously but the real game-changer will only be when we get to more of a systemic embedding of the one per cent within the industry.
“When Jürgen moved to Liverpool it was so big for us as Germans, having seen him at FSV Mainz and Borussia Dortmund. It was probably the club where he needed to go, their values aligned and that personality of his would be able to unleash itself in that environment.
“We have always been fans of his, not just because of how he has his teams play football, but because of who he is as a person. That was a conscious thing, and we have been working on it for quite some time with his representatives, who also represent one of the other coaches we work with, Julian Nagelsmann.
“So that was the effort on our side, to tell them that, when the moment is right, Jürgen would be a very good fit for Common Goal in this early stage, because of the values he stands for.
“And on the other side I think Jürgen was following Mats Hummels and Shinji Kagawa joining, former players of his at Dortmund. I think from early on he felt attracted by the idea but the everyday workload at LFC didn’t allow it to happen. It happened when it needed to happen and I think it was quite a magical moment when he used that stage to do exactly what I mentioned – inspire and lead. It was awesome.”
“We should not forget what it was like when we had real problems. This bubble we live in is not the real world.” J… https://t.co/Cltb7BzOH4— TPT_Global (Players' Tribune Global) 24th Sep 11:30
Common Goal members have been making some serious waves in the world of football of late.
Megan Rapinoe captained the USA to victory and won the Golden Boot at the 2019 Women’s World Cup; Nagelsmann’s Leipzig are just two points off the top of the Bundesliga; and Serge Gnabry recently scored four of Bayern Munich’s goals in their 7-2 Champions League win at Tottenham Hotspur.
Griesbeck described those successes as ‘a manifestation of the fact that performance on the field and purpose off the field can really go nicely together’.
The funds raised by Common Goal go towards causes as varied as conflict resolution in Colombia and raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, and are also being put to good use in the UK, where a number of organisations are linked to streetfootballworld, including Street League, a sport for employment charity whose Liverpool branch operates out of Anfield Sports and Community Centre.
“This is only the start,” remarked Klopp after Liverpool’s European Cup triumph in Madrid four months ago, and like his namesake, Griesbeck has some big goals for the future, and a sense that the achievements of the past few years are merely a beginning.
“It’s all a development over time,” concludes the 54-year-old, who is currently enjoying seeing the club he supports, SC Freiburg, sit fourth in the Bundesliga.
“We are not into developing organisations or building important brands or earning a lot more money, what drives us has always been, and continues to be, impact. We started to get a good understanding in Colombia of how football can generate massive change in a community, and our goal became the attempt to build a sustainable and resilient bridge between the commercial development of football and football as a driver for social change.
“I don’t know if this project is the most impactful so far, it’s just the next step we need to do in order to get to where we want to be, which is maximising the power of football for good.”