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Dec 10, 2021   |  2:10PM AET

INSPIRED ON JUAN MATA’S TEAM, CHANGING THE GAME AT HOME

INSPIRED ON JUAN MATA’S TEAM, CHANGING THE GAME AT HOME

Libby Copus-Brown once watched on with adoration as Juan Mata helped carry her beloved Chelsea FC to European glory.

But now, as a professional footballer in her own right, Copus-Brown finds herself on the same team as the Spaniard, sharing one ‘Common Goal’: to use their shared platform to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

Combining with streetfootballworld Mata founded Common Goal in 2017, a project which encourages footballers around the world to pledge at least 1% of their salary to fund charitable organisations around the world. 

The list of players committed to Mata’s cause include the likes of Vivienne Miedema, Paulo Dybala, Serge Gnabry, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan – and Copus-Brown, who joined the Common Goal team in August, 2021.

“The founder Juan Mata played for Chelsea; I’m a Chelsea fan and was a big fan of his,” Copus-Brown told KEEPUP.

“I saw it a while ago, and I just thought it was for bigger-name players involved, and then maybe a couple of months later I saw Isobel Dalton from Brisbane Roar had signed up. 

“I had a look into it a bit more, I got on the website and straight away tried to get in contact. It’s an amazing initiative and I really like what it’s all about.”

Copus-Brown idolised Mata during his decorated Chelsea stint.

Copus-Brown and Dalton are two of six Australians currently committed to Common Goal. Five Australian professionals are female footballers, with the pair joined by Aivi Luik, Alex Chidiac and Winonah Heatley, and the sixth is retired Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque. 

Across the world that number is in the hundreds- but Copus-Brown’s involvement has not gone unnoticed by Mata himself.

“I’m proud to have inspired her in taking the decision to join the movement and I hope that she in turn inspires more players to join the Common Goal team,” Mata told KEEPUP.

“She has joined a movement of well over 200 professional players and coaches at this time. We are all united in harnessing football’s unique power to positively impact people and planet. 

“The fact that 45% of the members are female speaks to the leadership of players like Libby, who are determined to use the platform that football gives us to drive positive change.” 

The financial contribution Copus-Brown can provide to Common Goal’s central fund – distributed to high-impact football non-profit organisations around the world – pales in comparison to the players starring for some of the biggest clubs in world football.

Not that it matters to the Western Sydney Wanderers star. Copus-Brown believes anyone can make a difference if their actions inspire others to follow suit.

“It’s honestly an honour,” she said. “We obviously aren’t on a salary as they are, but I think the more people that are involved, it doesn’t matter where we’re from and how much we earn, I think everyone should give back to help make the world a better place. 

“I think it’s really important that everyone in the world, no matter what background you’re from, should be accepted for who they are and everyone should be treated equally.

“I’ve always enjoyed giving back to people, and helping out in any way possible that I can. It was a no-brainer for me to sign up.

“The more you see people like yourself sign up to things like that, it just makes you want to do it even more. I hope I can be that person for other players.”

It’s been an off-season of gained perspective and personal growth for Copus-Brown, who continued to give back through the Future Wander Women program, where she served as assistant coach to Linda Khamis.

Almost 190 young female footballers trialled for the 20-week program, with 34 proceeding to learn under the tutelage of Khamis and Copus-Brown. It was a first taste of coaching for the Wanderers midfielder who felt herself develop alongside her budding footballing students as the weeks progressed.

“The club asked me and it sort of shocked me, to be honest. I’ve never really been involved in a coaching gig. I was honoured they asked.

“It also comes back to Common Goal: in any way I can give back to the community I am willing to do it.

“I was amazed at the amount of girls that trialled for that program. Those numbers just shocked me, because there’s so much talent. Sometimes if you’re playing out west you don’t really get recognised unless you have these type of platforms.

“Working with Linda Khamis, she’s amazing – all of the Khamis sisters are. She made my first coaching gig quite easy to slide into. I learned a lot from her, and switching roles being a coach has helped me develop as a player as well.

“I think as a player sometimes you catch yourself going through the motions a little bit. When you’re a coach you have to strip back all the exercises and drills, to explain why you’re doing it. 

“Sometimes you forget that as a player. You’re told to do something, but there’s a reason why the coaches are telling us to do it. I think I appreciate all the hard work coaches do put in to planning a session.

“I think all areas I’ve developed as a player by being in a coaching role. I’m understanding the game better, and ways I can become a better player myself by being a coach.”

Copus-Brown (far left) and the Future Wander Women squad.

The act of giving back to the 34 young female players aged between 14-17 was a continuation of Copus-Brown’s commitment to Common Goal which has helped the central midfielder return to Wanderland with a greater understanding of how to approach each moment as a professional.

“I definitely think I’ve grown over the pandemic as a person,” she said. “I think it’s really made me appreciate what I have, and how I can give back. I want to be the best version of myself, so I’m the best version of my club. 

“Hopefully by me being the best version of myself, we’ll start winning things. It’s a domino effect, once you see someone doing something good then you’re going to follow, aren’t you? 

“(Wanderers head coach Catherine Cannuli) has recognised me as a leader, and I think the way I’m a good leader is by my actions, not so much by my words. 

“I think that actions speak louder than words. Sometimes I’m not good with my words, and I don’t know how to get across what I want to say. The way I lead is with my actions. What I’ve done in the off-season has benefited me as a player, and hopefully I’m helping other people as well.”