A Footballer Whose Commitment Runs Deep…
On Monday 11 January 2016, the whole world of football was focussed on Zurich, where the official FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala was held. Lionel Messi won the main award, attracting a flurry of attention from media and social networks. But a little earlier in the evening, another player found the words to capture the entire audience in the Swiss city’s Palais des Congrès. Gerald Asamoah, 37, retired midfielder for Germany, who were runners-up in the 2002 World Cup, received the fair play award. In 2015, this prize was given to all organizations and clubs throughout the world which have done their bit to help refugees. On Monday 11 January, FIFA chose to symbolically place it in the hands of the former child from Mampong in Ghana, who followed his father – himself a migrant who fled his country – to Germany at the age of 12.
The choice of Gerald Asamoah to accept this award leaves nothing to chance. The player explained: “I myself have lived this experience: arriving in a foreign country and trying to get accepted. So for me, it’s natural to fight for that. Football has the capacity to unite people. I’ve often had to face discrimination, but I told myself that he who says nothing is incapable of making things move.” In May 2001, he became the first black player to wear Nationalmannschaft’s shirt.
Last year in Germany, Gerald Asamoah added actions to words when tens of thousands of refugees tried to enter the country. Along with his club, Schalke 04, he has been involved in many initiatives. “For example, we set up a system to collect donated items” he said. “We also regularly invite refugees to our facilities. These are actions in which I’m very much involved.”
Who said that sportspeople don’t like to commit? Who claimed that footballers, the target of all excesses and vices, live in an ivory tower? Gerald Asamoah spurns fixed ideas. And he is not the only one. Last September, the German football federation published a video in which skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger joined by Jerome Boateng, Ilkay Gündogan, Mesut Özil and Toni Kroos say they agree with “being open to world, tolerance, mutual aid, respect, fair play” and “against violence and xenophobia.”
Professional footballers as well as all top-level athletes have often received a lot from life and from society. Their talent and their performance enable them to achieve fame, wealth and comfort, which means that they will never have to suffer, or to live in conflicts and poverty. Some forget it. Others, like Gerald Asamoah, can contribute through words, commitment and standing for what they believe in order to change mentalities. And even – who knows?- to change the world.