“Football is not just about kicking a ball”
“Sport has been my luck. It has opened doors that I never even dreamed of. I was born in Toulouse, where I discovered football at a very young age, following the footsteps of my older brother. Then my family – originally from Angola who went to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo before settling in France – moved to Fontenay-sous-Bois, in the outskirts of Paris. Everything really started for me at that time. My dream took shape during these years of apprenticeship. Football took my destiny in hand and led me to where I am today.
I’ve never forgotten my journey from anonymity to the professional world. I’ve never forgotten the luck that I had to make it through football. One day, about 2 years ago, I decided that the time had come for me to try to provide the same opportunities to young people from my neighbourhood. I created an association called “Les Tremplins Blaise Matuidi”. Its mission is to use sport to impact community life. Through this initiative, I hope to bring smiles to the faces of young people who are often neglected and deprived of real opportunities. I want to show them that they, too, can succeed and fulfil their dreams. Using myself as an example, I can make them understand that everything is possible as long as you try hard, respect the rules and adopt the values conveyed by sport.
I am also involved with another association in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The goal is the same: using sport as a message for young people. In both cases the objective is to tell them that the doors are not closed ahead of them. In Africa, the means are significantly smaller and the work of associations is more complicated. But the joy is the same in the eyes of the children and young people we meet. They are full of dreams.
The idea to found these associations goes back a long time. It was hatched when I was still a young player, already spotted but still far from playing at the highest international level. It all started from a conversation with my father and a childhood friend. We talked about how lucky I was to have succeeded in football. Not all young people have this opportunity. So we had the idea of trying in the future, in our turn, to offer young people the opportunity to break through as well. It seemed an evidence to us. I was certain that I would do it one day.
We started in the Paris region, by organizing football tournaments. We set up an operation at the national football institute (INF) in Clairefontaine, where I did my training. Football is not just about kicking a ball around: it conveys the values of respecting rules and discipline. Then we thought that sport was not enough, that we should go further and encompass community life more broadly. Since then, we’ve been working with hospitals and orphanages. Now we want to expand our actions throughout France.
Being rewarded with the Champion of the Year Award by Peace and Sport is the culmination of my commitment. It means a lot to me. I welcome this prize as an honour, with immense pride. With this trophy, I also joined the Champions for Peace club with whom I will create synergies and be able to share ideas. Growing as a person with other champions is also an opportunity to share our personal experiences in order to keep inspiring youngsters. At Peace and Sport, we all share the same values. Being part of it seems obvious to me.”