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Matthew Barrett: Goal Click Football Stories
Matthew Barrett (2004) shares the story of his global football enterprise that started in a Pembroke History tutorial.
I arrived at Pembroke in October 2004 to study Modern History with two main personal obsessions: sport, and the Second World War. I certainly dived into college sport - by my second year I was JCR Sports Rep, Pembroke 1st XI football captain, darts captain, and a cricket Cuppers winner. And my History modules were firmly focused on early twentieth century Europe…
It was at this point that Dr Adrian Gregory unwittingly set my life on a path to where it is today with one simple question: “have you thought about combining your love of sport with your love of the Second World War?”. I had not. But the rest is history (no pun intended).
Guided by Dr Gregory, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on ‘Sport and British Army Morale 1939-45’ – containing gems such as “The road to Sheffield Wednesday ran through Berlin” and “British soldiers fought perhaps not for a ‘new Britain’, but a new Wembley”. It was at Pembroke that I developed my strong passion for telling stories about the world, politics, society, and conflict through the lens of sport and particularly football.
After graduating in 2007 I started my career in the sports marketing and sponsorship industry, working for leading WPP sports agencies H+K Strategies, ESP, and Two Circles. A dream career in many ways, I had the fortune of working on all six continents. Although watching Bryan Adams perform in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the 2011 Cricket World Cup opening ceremony was a curious moment. However, I was constantly searching for ways to return to more human storytelling through sport…
In 2014 my social business Goal Click was born. Goal Click is a global football storytelling platform and network, finding real people from around the world to tell stories about their football lives and communities - all initially using disposable analogue cameras and their own words.
Goal Click finds the most compelling stories; from civil war amputees in Sierra Leone and Kurdish football on the border with Islamic State, to Japanese high schools and women's football teams in Nepal and Pakistan. We give people the freedom, control and power to tell their own story through the common language of football.
You can watch a brief introduction to Goal Click here.
Goal Click now operates in more than 100 countries (even Syria and North Korea), working from the grassroots to the elite. We tell the untold stories of refugees, people affected by war, women breaking through cultural barriers, football fans, and international footballers at the top of the game. We receive applications from all over the world (my WhatsApp feed closely resembles a United Nations rollcall), but also seek out the most interesting storytellers through our global network.
All our participants receive one disposable analogue camera (yes, 27 photos on an old-school point-and-click camera!) to capture their football lives and then write their personal story to accompany the photos. We closely support our participants to help them do justice to their story.
Over the course of the past six years, Goal Click went from a slightly crazy idea to a fully-fledged social business that now partners with organisations including FIFA, UEFA, adidas, and UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency. With our partners we create deeper series that dive into specific cities, countries, tournaments or issues in the world.
For instance, our recent series Goal Click Refugees with UNHCR is collaborating with refugees and asylum seekers around the world to document their stories through football in refugee camps and new host communities. Our Goal Click Qatar series revealed the untold, inside story of Qatari football culture, through the eyes of people living in the next World Cup host nation. Our 2019 Women’s World Cup series with The New York Times documented the behind-the-scenes journey to the World Cup of 18 of the world’s best players representing the likes of England, Australia, and the US Women’s National Team.
And along the way we have hosted exhibitions in nine cities around the world, from Moscow and Doha to New York City and Sao Paulo.
The future of Goal Click is one of evolution – from photography, written word and exhibitions towards podcasts, short films, and live storytelling events. We are exploring potential for working in new sports, from basketball and boxing to athletics and rugby. Goal Click continues to search for new stories from every corner of the planet. Perhaps there is even an opportunity for the PCFC Men’s and Women’s football teams to participate…
I believe I am doing exactly what I was destined to do ever since I started writing that thesis at Pembroke in 2006. But when I started Goal Click in 2014, I never knew what it would end up becoming. My advice for anyone wishing to follow their passion (and maybe even setting up their own enterprise) is to start with five minutes work. It can be overwhelming (and impossible) to predict exactly what your initiative will become. Five minutes on one day quickly becomes five minutes every day, then 10 minutes, and grows from there. Don’t wait for the perfect plan.
And my second piece of advice would be to collaborate wherever possible. Goal Click is nothing without our network of friends and collaborators. Be receptive to other opinions. I credit my time studying History at Pembroke with teaching me to listen, consider multiple perspectives, and give the floor to others. Ultimately Goal Click is a global extension of this through a universal language of football – getting out of the way and giving a platform to unheard, marginalised or silenced voices.