What Makes a Man? | FBB x COPA90 Creator Commission
In 2019, the term ‘masculinity’ is often underpinned by negative connotations. As a consequence of modern media’s wider awareness of ‘toxic masculinity’, many feel uncomfortable broaching the subject. The perception of masculinity, therefore, represents an uncomfortable internal struggle in the minds of many young adolescents, as they come to terms with the type of man they want to become.
In order to break down these mental barriers, and open up a safe space where teenagers feel at ease engaging in healthy discussions about masculinity, Football Beyond Borders – an educational sports charity – set up a unique project which utilises the game’s social power as an opportunity to connect with today’s youth.
“The vast majority of the young men we work with look up to footballers as some of their main role models.”
“The purpose of the masculinity project, in my eyes, is to open up a space for young men to explore different aspects of their own identity and come to their own conclusions.” FBB’s Kelvyn Quagraine tells COPA90. “The video came about through an initial meeting with COPA90 regarding a content collaboration opportunity we wanted to explore.”
From there, COPA90 were keen to be involved and commissioned this video to help broaden the discussion of masculinity in 2019. With football acting as a lifestyle choice for many boys, it made sense to connect with them through the lens of the game, gaining an insight into their perspectives of what it means to be a man.
“The vast majority of the young men we work with look up to footballers as some of their main role models.” Kelvyn says. It’s one of the main reasons FBB have sought to recruit professional players as patrons, such as their ambassador, Chris Smalling.
“Chris has worked with our young men from different schools on several occasions this year and has consistently reinforced the importance of a positive masculine identity; taking responsibility for your actions, looking after those around you and caring for the wider world.”
“When someone tells you to ‘be a man’ I feel it ruins your mentality a bit."
It’s clear to see from the video that such high-profile support and open discussions are having a profoundly positive impact on the boys. 13-year-old Fernando, who moved to North London from Portugal aged four, has developed an acute sense of awareness over the course of FBB’s six-week programme, identifying the dangers societal stereotypes pose to his own sense of masculinity:
“When someone tells you to ‘be a man’ I feel it ruins your mentality a bit. You feel like: ‘oh no, I’m not man enough, I can’t do this’. Then you limit yourself and your self-esteem goes down.”
Outdated perceptions of masculinity are still very much prevalent in 2019, and football serves as a microcosm by portraying these stereotypes. As the video highlights, attributes such as strength and athleticism are still heavily linked to the concept of being manly – as evidenced by Fernando when describing Cristiano Ronaldo and Sead Kolašinac as ‘two of the manliest footballers’.
“I think for us, this video is definitely the first step towards introducing the conversation around masculinity for young people, and its links to football."
“You cannot expect any six-week programme to override a lifetime of conditioning,” Kelvyn reiterates, “I still see many signs of negative masculinity in myself, and in many of my peers, so we must be realistic and expect to see this in young people."
“I think for us, this video is definitely the first step towards introducing the conversation around masculinity for young people, and its links to football." Adds Stefan Imeson, FBB's Project Leader. "For a young person, the world of football can be stifling when it comes to masculinity.
“With so many idealistic notions of toxic masculinity projected across generations of football fans, it is so important for young people to understand that displaying social and emotional empathetic qualities associated with more tender forms of masculinity is okay.”
This project is just the start, but the hope for FBB is that by engaging in conversations around masculinity through the medium of football, the charity can help provide young people with a platform to evolve and vocalise their feelings.
“We have worked with COPA90 over a number of years now,” Kelvyn concludes, “they have provided us with a range of opportunities to create unique content that serves the purpose of empowering youth, and placing them at the heart of the content we create.”
It’s small steps, of course, but by commissioning and championing such projects, COPA90 and FBB aim to open a wider debate around what it means to be a man in 2019. Given football’s universal appeal, it seems like the perfect place to start.
If you enjoyed this, why not check our other Creator Commissions?
Over the course of the first season of Commissions, we’ve covered a broad range of topics in a whole host of countries:
Palestine | Providing unity and resistance in the face of intimidation and oppression
Arctic | Helping battle mental health in remoteness
Mexico | Breaking down boundaries and destroying stereotypes
Algeria | Toppling dictators
London | Giving a voice to overlooked communities
The underlying theme is how each Commission demonstrates the humane side to our game, for this is when football is at it’s very best. While it’s hard to avoid the headlines of Messi and Ronaldo's goals, the Commissions are an opportunity to unearth the stories of those everyday fans who are doing extraordinary things across every corner of the globe.
Want to pitch your own idea to COPA90 for a Creator Commission? Learn more here.
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