Mata was recognised for his role with Common Goal, the charity that he co-founded in 2017.
Footballers, coaches and other personalities from around the world donate one per cent of their salaries to the project, which then goes towards helping communities, tackling gender inequality and providing more opportunities for underprivileged children.
Thank you @UEFA from everyone at @CommonGoalOrg. Such an honour. We keep going! ⚽❤️🌍 #CommonGoal #EqualGameAwards https://t.co/9oN3JUXgtb
— Juan Mata García (@juanmata8) December 16, 2021
“I was lucky enough to go and see first-hand the amazing work that the organisations that we work with do,” Mata explained in an interview with UEFA, which was broadcast during Thursday’s Nations League draw ceremony.
“The warmth and the welcome they gave us, it was an incredibly happy moment. But also it was sad for us to see how many people in this world still have to live under difficult conditions.
“I was proud of the work that our organisations are doing there and proud of the stories of people that have overcome difficult problems. This is what we want to do through Common Goal, give people the choice to decide their futures.
“It has definitely improved and developed me as a person that’s for sure. I always say the same, football is a great sport but it’s much more than that.”
The other two winners were Khalida Popal, the founder and former captain of the Afghanistan national women’s team, and the German Football Association, or DFB.
Popal’s work in empowering women and minority groups, as well as helping evacuate members of the Afghan team after this year’s unrest in the country, was acknowledged, while the DFB won their award for its safe and inclusive Football for All programme.
“Each of the three Equal Game Award winners is a fine example of how football can be used as a catalyst for positive change,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
“They can and should be very proud of their achievements and I would like to personally thank them for their exemplary leadership that will, hopefully, inspire many others.”