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  • Annabel Sides

Football and Nature

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Re-Imagination + Mindsets + Culture.....

My favourite thing about the WWC so far (other than the Matildas winning v Ireland) is the sustainability work on show.

Mobilising action for social and environmental impact in a major event, in a global organisation takes determination, deep understanding, unwavering enthusiasm, empathy and

buy in by A LOT of people (and a whole lot of other stuff too like policy and leadership et. al. …)

Dr Sheila Nguyen, Head of Sustainability for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the global Sustainability Team, the Sustainability Event Team + all the staff who are carrying the torch for footballs intersect with Environment, Human Rights, Accessibility & Inclusion, and Safeguarding and the positive role that football can play in creating a better world for are definitely applying “Beyond Greatness” to their work.

Congratulations, you made it to Day 1 kick off - good luck for the rest of the tournament!

When I attended a match the acknowledgement of First Nations people, and of country, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, the inclusive messaging, being able to fill up our water bottles, the whole crowd clapping, doing the Mexican wave and the friendly joyous feeling of an international event was brilliant, as was the footbal!

There is singing and phone torches to celebrate #unitybeat. this creates such a buzz around me - unity is felt and experienced and the crowd diversity respects this 👊🌏⚽️

There are families, lots of them. This is a celebration of women and sport and community.

You can probably guess my favourite of all the sustainability activities is the one that activates the regeneration and protection of ecosystems, of nature – Football Rewilded. You can find Football Rewilded at all the stadiums (in case you didn't know all of the competition stadiums are Green Building Certified). Remember to check out Football Rewilded in person + rally the troops you are attending with to take on the actions as part of ‘natures team’ because 'when nature wins we all win' You can read the details of the work here + where to see the installations. For an overarching wrap of sport and nature initiatives by the tournament visit here.

In summary Football Rewilded has a focus on

- Reflection + raising awareness about why nature matters to Football.

- What a regenerative sports ecosystem looks like, the actions you can take as an attending fan + the actions you can take in your every-day and the actions you can take at your sporting club, to value, protect and restore these ecosystems, anywhere in the world, during and after the tournament.

- The importance of learning from and being guided by the wisdom, knowledge and custodianship Indigenous people across the world who have deep connections to the natural environment and thousands of years of systems that care for the land.

- What a nature-centric or eco-centric mindset is.

At Green Planet Sport we call this a regenerative mindset. This is when we improve our understanding and capabilities through climate positive partnerships + literacy building that de-silo the way we deliver sport so that it is part of and not parallel to earths natural ecosystems. It is when we operate within earths planetary boundaries so that we can sustain life on earth, sustain our places of play and the future of the people who play the sports we love.

Mindsets can be shared. This is part of what Rewilding Football shows us.

At Green Planet Sport we believe there are two critical mindsets and super powers to share if sport is to connect back to nature, if we are to operate within planetary boundaries and if we are to protect and restore biodiversity at the scale we need to halt mass extinction of plants and animals.

The first belongs to the ecosystem restoration community and the guardians of the land, water ways and sky’s. The superpower is regeneration, a nature-centric mindset and wisdom that comes from millennia of being custodians of nature. If sport can learn more about this mindset, it can fulfill the need for sport to connect back to nature and to planetary health that it is so deeply, deeply dependent on.

By protecting natures ecosystems, planetary health, and biodiversity, sport protects that which supports and provides for almost every aspect of the business of sport – resources and materials, fibres, medicines and health, the good days of weather, clean air, clean water, snow coverage, green pitches, safe rivers, oceans and mountains…. It supports sport to value nature and to act for nature.

The second mind set belongs to sport. The mindset is growth-centric specifically relating to inclusion of all people + participation. Sport is in the business of people. Sports super power is to inspire and mobilise people, sometimes billions of people (Football and the FIFAWWC are testament to this) to normalise activities and behaviours and to do this across demographics and across borders. If shared with the ecosystem restoration community it fills the need to, at speed and scale, protect and restore nature so that we have more people, in more places, more often acting for nature.

Working across industries to share leadership, mindsets, knowledge, and skills and support specific needs can create accelerated action for the planet.

Football Rewilded is a starting point and a launch pad for sustainable legacy, for nature legacy, in Australia and New Zealand, at major events in the coming years - sport, arts, music - and the “green and gold” runway to Brisbane2032.

It should also be acknowledged that this event, the FIFAWWC, launches from the years of work by global sports sustainability professionals leading global sports events like the Ocean Race (and many others) who deliver year on year better social and environmental impact gains.

There is still much work to be done by all of us as individuals and by our major sports bodies, like FIFA. By working together and working with endeavour regenerative sport culture can only accelerate. We must plant trees we will not sit under and spread ideas like seeds that travel on the wind, not knowing where they land or what they will become but trusting in the process.

If you are a sport that wants to do more, sign up to the IUCN Sports for Nature Framework...Give me a call....and.... stay tuned for a new look Green Planet Sport coming soon where you can learn more about regenerative sport culture and how to be a sport that acts for nature.


A Tournament of First in Sustainability - FIFAWWC - HERE

FIFAWWC Sustainability Stories HERE

Players Being Responsible for their emissions - Football for Future - HERE

Pledgeball FIFAWWC Campaign HERE (you can plant some trees)

Sustainable Sports Program HERE (planting trees and much more)

Save Today Play Tomorrow: Reconnecting Football to Nature HERE

There are many other Football initiatives connecting to nature.... for another time...or if you want to SHARE your fav football for nature initiative comment below....

Go the Matildas!

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