German soccer ambassadors choose South Africa

2019-07-31 14:09

On Monday, two of Germany’s famous footballing sons were honoured in South Africa at the residence of the German ambassador for their contribution to the development of the beautiful game in this country and around the world.

Jürgen Klopp and Horst Kriete were celebrated for their support of and contributions to promoting the game, and they chose two social projects in South Africa to be recipients of support from the German Football Association.

Klopp, the coach of Champions League winners Liverpool and this year’s German Football Ambassador winner, adopted Hout Bay United Football Community in the Western Cape, while Kriete, who has been involved in South African football since Safa’s inception in 1991, chose Safa’s Beyond the Field – Project Horst – as his initiative. He won the German Football Ambassador award in 2017.

Klopp was unable to attend the event because, as German ambassador to South Africa Martin Schäfer joked, “he was too busy losing to Borussia Dortmund”. Liverpool played Dortmund in a preseason friendly.

Kriete, however, was on hand to receive the award. He said it was an honour to be recognised, but he was just a face because the real heroes are the teams behind the scenes. “If I had to mention them all, it would be a long list,” Kriete said.

I think they love him and you can see his authenticity when getting involved

Reflecting on his time in South Africa, Kriete narrated a story of the first tournament he attended in Durban in 1991: “I had the jersey of Lothar Matthaeus [Germany’s captain at the time] that he wore at the 1990 World Cup semifinal, so I handed it to the player of the tournament. At the time, I didn’t even think of the name. Then, in 1997, when I came back, someone approached me and said: ‘I am Quinton Fortune and I still have the jersey you gave me.’”

Fortune went on to play for Manchester United and other international clubs.

Kriete subsequently spent five years as a director of coaching education in South Africa and said it was rewarding to see that all the hard work back then bore fruit as numerous coaching licences were issued and a structure was developed to educate coaches.

Safa’s technical director and former Bafana captain Neil Tovey said that, as much as great work has been done around development, it still is a very “slow process”. Kriete agreed, adding that “there is a need to train coaches because [they are the ones] who develop the great pool of talent in the country”.

Regarding Klopp’s initiative in Hout Bay, Iris Henkel, project manager at the community club, said the former German international was on holiday in Cape Town two years ago when he came across people playing on the grounds of a stadium that was built as part of the 2010 World Cup legacy programme. Henkel explained that the club represented “more than just football” because they looked at each player’s life away from the game and provided them with mentorship and soft skills.

That’s why they called it a “football community” and not a “football club”.

Klopp fell in love with this concept and even organised a charity evening to raise funds for the initiative.

“I think they love him and you can see his authenticity when getting involved,” Henkel said.

Klopp was so determined to prioritise it that, when he was made German football ambassador, he immediately chose this community to receive the support it so desperately needed.

And it is already paying dividends.

Henkel said: “When the elite team plays on a Friday night, the police – whose station is opposite the club grounds – said that they noticed a dramatic decrease in crime in the area.”

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January 26 2020