Dreary skies and driving rain — remnants of Hurricane Jose as it passed along the Northeast — certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the girls and women Tuesday evening inside the Brooklyn Expo Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The second Global Goals World Cup Final was in full swing. There were players donning pink wigs. Others in red tutus. There were green balloons anchored to folding chairs. Fluorescent hula hoops. Cheering. High fives. Smiles. And, of course, soccer.
The Global Goals World Cup is a women’s activist soccer tournament begun in 2015 by Eir Soccer co-founders Majken Gilmartin and Rikke Rønholt Albertsen. The event, an amalgam of sports, activism, art and culture, featured 24 teams from around the globe who not only focus their motivations on the field, but also toward one of the 17 United Nations Global Goals in an effort to improve the world we live in now and for the future.
“It makes me so proud of what sport can do when I see all of this energy and I see all of these women so excited and so confidently coming together and raising their voice for what they believe in,” Rønholt Albertsen said. “This is one of the qualities sport has, it just unites people across all kinds of cultures and sectors.”
Teams ranging from Moving the Goalposts (Kenya) — the event’s winners — to Team Sauce (Liberia) to Feminist Camp (United States) came to New York City during the week of the United Nations General Assembly to band together to make their voices heard. Teams select and support a certain U.N. Global Goal; whether it’s No. 4 Quality Education, No. 5 Gender Equality or No. 13 Climate Action.
Teams are awarded for more than just scoring goals on the field — they receive one point for original team style (hence the wigs and tutus), most supporting crowd, and most importantly, best action toward their Global Goal.
The event and initiative has certainly caught the attention of many non-profits, governments, humanitarians, artists, celebrities and even royalty. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark was on hand for the event, as was Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Victor Ochen from Uganda, and Danish artist Olafur Eliasson.
“For me it’s about aiming that spotlight on something that’s a little more interesting and important than our television show, though I love our television show,” said Coster-Waldau, a U.N. Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, who plays Jaime Lannister on the HBO series. “This is about information and education; I’ve been educating myself over the last year-plus, and there’s so much more to it.
“… The challenges we face are really big and we need all hands on deck. Not just because of that, but it’s also the right thing; human rights are important.”
Coster-Waldau and Ochen served as the event’s special guest referees, having also done so earlier in the year at a regional Global Goals tournament in Nairobi, Kenya.
“When we invest in women we’re investing in the future in so many ways,” Ochen said. “Women are the path to life, they’re the path to growth, the path to progress. A society that excludes women or keeps them out of the process is a society that doesn’t move anywhere. We’re using soccer properly with the right age and gender to mobilize the right society. These women are giving a human face to human development.”
Having the involvement from celebrities, politicians and activists only strengthens the message on display, Rønholt Albertsen said.
“What we set out to do with the Global Goals World Cup was to create an arena where we give voice to these women because they’re out there in their everyday lives already doing this, but they’re coming together here and the message gets amplified,” she said. “Half of it is these famous people pulling the media in, but the story they end up telling is the story of these people and the teams and what they’re trying to do.”