Boateng: 'We all have the same blood in our veins'
Jérôme Boateng has worn the FC Bayern shirt for nine years, during which he has, among other things won eight Bundesliga titles. But the 2013 Champions League winner is all about far more than just what happens on the pitch. In our interview, the 31-year-old looks beyond football. You can read the full interview (in German) in the current edition of our club magazine '51'.
The interview with Jérôme Boateng
Jérôme, is this eighth league title a particularly special one for you, because you've bounced back so strongly after some difficult times?
"Every season has its own story. For me personally, there have been one or two titles in which I've not been able to make as much of a contribution because of injuries. You're always part of the team, but it just feels more complete when you're actively involved on the pitch. I'm very happy that I got back into my usual rhythm over the course of this season. I enjoyed football again."
You have a gluten-free diet, you do yoga and brain training – is that a big part of the secrets behind this new Jérôme Boateng?
"The nutrition is nothing new for me, but for a good 10 years now, I've always been on the lookout for what I can do to optimise my performance. I've got to know my body very well, I listen to it and always see what can help. That's how the yoga and the brain training came into it."
It's been a remarkable season for everyone because of coronavirus. What do you think overall about this intrusion into our daily lives? Has coronavirus changed life in your view?
"I think everyone's had time to think about themselves and about life a bit more deeply. How do I really live my life? Can I change anything? Personally, I have to say I've realised that I sometimes get too stressed when it's not necessary. I've really enjoyed spending more time with my children, reading and just appreciating what's important in life again. We shouldn't take everything for granted all the time. If there is anything positive to be gained from this crisis, it may be that some people have hopefully woken up, questioned themselves and thought about what role they want to play in this world."
And it's not just coronavirus that has affected football. You've always been at the forefront in the battle against racism during your time – does it shock you that this demon has returned with such force in the middle of 2020?
"It's a very worrying and shocking development. I think for many people it is difficult to understand the pain that is triggered when you are treated differently because of the colour of your skin or because of your religion. I think it all starts with education: no person is born a racist. If you grow up with hatred, which maybe comes from your parents, it is hard to get out of this cycle. Maybe this issue should be taken up more in the school curriculum – not as a separate subject, but simply more thoroughly in the discussion. This complex of exclusion, discrimination and thus tolerance and respect affects all areas of life. And it is a topic that affects the whole world. I think it is important to teach children that there is no better or worse skin colour. People look different, otherwise it would be boring. But we all have the same blood in our veins, and when we step on the sand, there is always the same footprint."
Your magazine 'Boa' appeared for the first time in November 2018. The central theme at the time concerned a country that was been torn apart by the issue of refugees: "Germany, what's going on?" What's your answer to that question, one and a half years later?
"That this question is still being asked. I think we need to do more and not turn a blind eye to racism. Civil courage, particularly during these turbulent times, is perhaps more important for a functioning society than ever before. At that time, I said that people were pigeon-holing people again: Germans and migrants, black people being looked at more suspiciously, even though they're German. That certainly hasn't got better."
There is one difference to 2018, though: sport is gradually taking its social responsibility more and more seriously.
"Yes, I find that too and it's a good thing. Especially after the extreme images from the USA, everyone is saying: enough is enough! We must resist! Sportspeople have a wide reach, and part of being a role model is taking on responsibility."
What do you think about your club's "Reds Against Racism" initiative?
"It's an important signal to the whole industry and one that FC Bayern, as a global brand, has sent to the world. When one of the biggest clubs on the planet sends out a message like that, the images are seen everywhere. It was precisely the right approach, and I hope it's also an example to other clubs. I think it's very good and important that FC Bayern always has an eye on social issues. It was also 100% right that the whole club showed its support for the 'Black Lives Matter' movement."
You announced that you would like to get involved in anti-racist, integrative projects with children in the future. Are children the key to an open society?
"Children are the future. I'm in discussions about what we can develop in this respect. With lots of families, both parents have to work, especially when you're new to Germany. That means the children don't get the support at home that they need. There should be more organisations that support them with learning the German language and with school work, and that impart values. It's important to understand German culture when you come here. I don't think it's right when people still don't speak the language after being in Germany for years."
What's your reaction when Serge Gnabry says: "I feel comfortable in my skin!"
"It's a nice line and exactly what I'm trying to get across to my daughters. My parents taught me that, too."
You can read the unabridged version in the current issue of '51' (in German), as well as an interview with FCB president Herbert Hainer and a look back at Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt's long career at FCB: