The founding values of Hibs endure - the Matthew Hoppe Foundation is just the latest example
The United States internationalist, currently on loan from Middlesbrough, announced on Monday the launch of the Matthew Hoppe Foundation, a ‘non-profit organisation focused on assisting young athletes to hone their skills through soccer camps, mentorships, and other resources’.
The organisation’s mission statement reads: “We believe that every young person should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter what their background or obstacle may be. In addition to guiding young athletes on the field, we also place importance on helping develop strong character off the field.”
Despite just turning 22 six weeks ago, Hoppe is playing football in his fifth country having started out in his homeland before moving to Germany with Schalke 04, Spain with Mallorca, England with Middlesbrough, and now Hibs in Scotland. Speaking last month he explained how he approaches each move in his career, saying: “It’s hard to be away from the States and away from family but at the same time it was my decision and my sacrifice. I hope to become the best soccer player I can, and make as much of an impact as I can in any time I’m at or any community I’m a part of.”
While Hoppe’s time in Edinburgh may be brief, with his loan spell up in the summer and the player due to return to his parent club, but he is the latest in a string of Hibs personalities to use their standing as footballers to impact the community.
When Ryan Porteous signed up to Common Goal in October 2020 he was still 21 and in his maiden season as a first-team starter for Hibs. He was also the first top-tier Scottish male footballer to join, with the hope that ‘a lot of people agree with me that the platform could help to introduce more people to playing football and, down the line, help the Scottish national team reap the rewards’.
The German-founded organisation was established in 2017 with the aim of ‘identifying, connecting, and empowering community organisations that have demonstrated to have a sustainable social impact in their communities, and enable them to do more’.
Common Goal works in tandem with its partners, including FIFA and UEFA, to channel the global appeal and force of the game for good. Common Goal members donate 1 per cent of their salary to help improve society through football. For Porteous there was also a family link – sister Emma played for Hibs Women before her younger brother was a first-team fixture at Easter Road but never had the opportunity to turn professional. With the gap between the men and women’s game even greater at the time, she crossed the pond to complete a university scholarship where she could continue playing.
Speaking last year Porteous said: “It might sound like it’s nothing, but if 20 or 30 players from the top leagues can donate, you’ll start to see these small things grow and add up. We’re a lot stronger together.”
Hibs Women forward Nor Mustafa has also been a member of Common Goal since the summer of 2020, and the 21-year-old is eager to have an impact on the women’s game similar to that had by compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimović. “He has opened so many doors for immigrant voices in Sweden. And if Zlatan can do it, we can do it. That was always in my mind,” she said, as quoted by the organisation’s website. “Football is so much more than football: it’s love, it’s passion, it’s so much more than kicking a ball. Football unites people.”
Then there’s the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation, headed up by current first-team players Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson, which is aimed at helping less privileged children as well as working closely with a number of Edinburgh-based charities, while midfielder Joe Newell recently took on a role as an ambassador for mental health charity Back Onside.
Alexa Coyle and Toni Malone, who turned out for Hibs Women last season, have also turned their hand to helping others. The pair started The Female Edge while they were still at the club, with a mission statement of ‘empowering female athletes to elevate themselves, elevate their game, and believe they can achieve in all areas of life’. It shares similarities with Hoppe’s foundation; namely aiming to inspire and mentor young athletes to reach their goals on and off the pitch.
In Coyle’s words: “The feeling of breaking barriers through empowering yourself, seeing your hard work pay off, and experiencing personal growth throughout the process are indescribable feelings that I want other females athletes to experience through their sport.”
Malone’s message is similar: “Football has been an outlet for me my whole life. Over the years, I have been able to develop my mindset in a way that has elevated my game. I want to inspire younger generations to be fearless in the pursuit of their dreams and to have confidence in themselves that they can carry with them throughout their lifetime.”
At a time when England and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is rightly earning plaudits for his efforts with the homeless and child poverty, it is heartening to see so many players closer to home doing likewise. We criticise infuriating elements of the Scottish game – VAR decisions, TV deals, Hampden kick-off times, ticket pricing, and half-baked league reconstruction plans – but there is a lot of good going on beneath the surface, at Hibs and further afield.
Whether it’s Hoppe, Porteous, Mustafa, Coyle, Malone, Newell, or Hanlon and Stevenson, the common theme is helping those less privileged, mostly with an emphasis on youth – not too dissimilar to the values that led to the founding of Hibs in 1875. With all that is changing and has already changed at Hibs in recent times, it is perhaps fitting that helping others remains a key value.