If ever there was a moment for FC Barcelona to pause and reflect, it was before yesterday’s May 20 match against Real Sociedad. The club had recently made history, going 400 days without a loss in La Liga play and winning the league championship in the process. Lionel Messi was a game away from capturing an unprecedented fifth golden shoe, awarded to European football’s highest scorer. And of course, Andre Iniesta, the heart and soul of Barca, was set to take the field for the final time in Blaugrana colors after a dazzling 14-year career with the club.
On the last game of the season, however, the club chose to add to the equation a new initiative, focused on creating a more sustainable future. Goals Beyond the Game is an effort to empower the generations of tomorrow by raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015. To kick off the initiative, 11 children between the ages of 6 and 9, selected by Rakuten to become “Young Ambassadors” for the program, had the opportunity to accompany Barca’s starting lineup onto the pitch for the players’ entrance, with each child representing their own chosen SDG.
The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. They provide clear guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the social, economic and environmental challenges of the world at large. The SDGs, unanimously adopted by all 193 Member States of the United Nations, are the world’s bold 15-year commitment to leave no one behind.
“From the day Rakuten was founded, we have dedicated ourselves to empowering people and society through the Internet” commented Masatada “Seichu” Kobayashi, Chief People Officer, Rakuten Inc. “By championing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, we want to emphasize our commitment to making contributions to society our most important value.”
“Barca Foundation is fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially with those SDGs related to the end of poverty, promotion of equality and quality education, reduction of inequalities and promotion of peace and justice,” explained Maria Valles, Barca Foundation General Manager. “One of the ways to make sport a useful tool for achieving these goals is through partnerships such as the Barca Foundation and Rakuten alliance. I’m proud to say both organizations are closely collaborating on this initiative to raise awareness about SDGs around the world.”
Empowerment has been a core value of the Rakuten Group since its inception in 1997 and today it also drives the company’s focus on SDGs; this includes a commitment to (1) Accelerate Social Innovation, (2) Realize Sustainable Consumption, (3) Make Local Communities Sustainable and (4) Improve Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Aid. Just one example of how Rakuten is leveraging advanced technology to benefit society is its work with Minamisoma—a city devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake—to develop drone technology that can make potentially life-saving deliveries to people living in remote, mountainous regions.
Children from all over the world were given the opportunity to be part of the program on Rakuten’s global program website. To apply for ambassador positions, applicants were asked to select one SDG and then post a pledge on the program website, with the option of sharing their pledge on social media with the hashtag #GoalsBeyondtheGame as well.
At Camp Nou stadium, selected pledges were shown during halftime break and fans in attendance were encouraged to learn more about SDGs at the Rakuten Booth.
The Young Ambassadors, who came from countries around the world including Japan, the United Kingdom, Argentina and Spain, enjoyed a VIP experience with their families on match day at Camp Nou and received special jerseys bearing the SDG logos.
Adding icing to the cake for the Young Ambassadors was Barca’s rousing 1 – 0 victory. The win moved their record to 28 – 9 – 1 on the season and wrapped one of the most impressive runs in the club’s storied history.
Despite all their recent and historical success however, the club is still firmly focused on the future. Both on the pitch and ‘beyond the game’, FC Barcelona has big goals that Rakuten is proud to support.
For more information on how Rakuten is addressing social issues, visit here.