Football players are the original ‘influencers’. They’re young, successful, famous, and – at times – capable of moments of magic that bring communities together.
And every so often, these childhood heroes use their influence to raise awareness about social issues in a more direct and immediate way than campaigners could ever have imagined.
Deportivo de la Coruña, a top-level football team based in Galicia, North-Western Spain, has teamed up with eco-conscious fashion brand Ecoalf to become the first team in the world to dress in clothing made from recycled ocean waste.
Club players and staff have committed to wearing the ‘Dépor by Ecoalf’ range while travelling to games throughout the season, consisting of a 100% recycled nylon coat; sustainably-produced T shirts and denim trousers; and newly designed trainers, made entirely from lightweight transparent plastic extracted from the seafloor.
The club – which in 2004 reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, the largest international club competition in the world – says the partnership reaffirms its ongoing commitment to recycling and makes it the “first football team in the world to be sustainably dressed.”
The collaboration is the result of Upcycling the Oceans (UTO), a pioneering project funded and managed by Ecoalf. Created in 2015, UTO supports fishers to collect plastic waste from the seafloor, bringing the proceeds back to the land and turning them into pellets, which become plastic threads and later fabrics for making clothing.
UTO runs projects in Thailand and Spain and has to date collected 330 tonnes of rubbish. There are currently more than 2,500 fishers involved across 37 ports in Spain, covering the country’s entire coast.
“The link between el Deport and Ecoalf is the materialisation of values the club firmly adheres to: sustainability, transparency, respect for the environment, the link between A Coruña and the sea, and social corporate responsibility,” the club said in a statement in 2017, when the first stage of the partnership was agreed.
By selling the clothing in its shop, the club is also spreading awareness about the need to clean up plastic from the ocean. How long before the club uses switches to a football kit made entirely from recycled plastic?