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Man United midfielder Juan Mata: The power of football can help people

Man United midfielder Juan Mata: The power of football can help people
From ESPN - October 13, 2017

MANCHESTER, England -- There was a moment at the National Football Museum on Thursday evening when Juan Mata was approached by a boy, probably only 11 or 12.

It was not a request for a selfie or an autograph. Only a chat. And for 10 minutes Mata did -- his arms on the youngster's shoulders, crouched down to his level; giving him his undivided attention; just talking. It was not for the benefit of the cameras, or anyone else in the room. No agenda. Just a good bloke being a good bloke: Mata being Mata.

The Manchester United midfielder was in the city centre to launch his Common Goal photography exhibition. He photographed Mumbai along with girlfriend, Evelina, during a trip in the summer and the boy he was talking to was in one or two of the pictures. He was one of a group of children Mata met in India and had flown to Manchester this week. They toured Old Trafford, with Mata as the guide.

He would never blow his own trumpet, but things like this are why Mata got behind Common Goal in the first place, pledging to donate a portion of his salary to charity. Not a PR exercise. No agenda. Just a good bloke using what he has to be a good bloke.

The Spaniard was the first to announce he will give up one percent of what he calls his "obscene" wage. Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini, Serge Gnabry, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque have followed. An unnamed English player is set to be unveiled next week.

Still, questions have been raised about why there has not been a rush of footballers eager to sign up. Mata, though, is not about to shame anyone. His aim, he says, is to get as much money as possible to places like Mumbai. He thinks everyone chipping into the same pot, all pulling in the same direction, is a good idea. That's all.

"I have to say some of the players have been doing solidarity in their lives, through football, and during their whole careers," he says. "So many guys have foundations, this is a different way of doing it, as a team.

"Globally, it could reach more people, at the end of the day. I try to act in order to follow the way I am. My values, and the way I live."

Another obvious question is why, so far, have no other United players joined him?

"I have to say they were supportive," Mata says. "I need to have more conversations and detail with my teammates and explain what we are doing and why it would be good for them to join. I am sure after having these conversations, many will understand, and will want to be in.

"This is not about obligating someone to do anything. It's just 'We are doing this if you want to join then better because the more we are the better the help is.'"

Mata's initial announcement came in the same week that Paris Saint-Germain agreed a world-record deal worth 196 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona, paying the Brazilian a reported 600,000 a week after tax. The spotlight on football finances has never been brighter.

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