Cologne – Sunday 20 September is 'Weltkindertag' in Germany, a day on which the nation honours children globally.
FC Bayern München and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is particularly active when it comes to promoting children welfare and rights. The Bundesliga Foundation's ambassador for young people spoke to bundesliga.com about his efforts in the field.
Question: Manuel Neuer, with your Kids Foundation and as ambassador to the Bundesliga Foundation for young people, you do a lot for children. What's the motivation behind this?
Manuel Neuer: Travelling around the world, seeing and observing everything, particularly on a regional level, you do notice that help is needed everywhere. It brings back memories of my time at school, where some kids would ask if I would share my lunch with them, or some couldn't come on school trips simply because they didn't have the financial means. That should really no longer be the case in our communities today. And of course I had role models such as my former team-mates Gerald Asamoah or Christoph Metzelder, who have already set up their own foundations and gave me the idea to create one myself.
Question: 'Children are welcome' is the motto of the 2015 Weltkindertag. What does this mean specifically for the work of your foundation?
Neuer: I think that as a person who is so much in the public eye, as we national team footballers are, it's easier for us to promote good causes. Where and how we do this is always dependent on what our aims are. For me, it's important to build up something long-term and sustainable, which is why in 2014 we opened our first MANUS child and youth centre. All children, no matter what their background or religion, are welcome here. We realised in my foundation that it's important that children have equal opportunities in the area of education. I'm pleased that we as a foundation are not alone and that we can count on some reliable partners, such as the Bundesliga Foundation, among others.
Question: With this 'welcome culture', we have seen in recent weeks and months how people have been trying to improve the situation for refugees. What exactly can football do to support young refugees?
Neuer: All children should be given prospects and opportunities for their future, which is why it's important to integrate refugee children. Football's a fantastic platform for this, which is why I welcome the Bundesliga Foundation's 'Welcome to Football' initiative. In our MANUS children and youth centre we also look after refugee children and youths. At the moment, new refugee families are arriving on a daily basis in Gelsenkirchen and we're delighted and also a little bit proud that we've created a place with MANUS where the refugee children can get some relief, at least for a few hours a day. We're also grateful that the children come to us because they also enrich our own lives.
Question: There's another project which sees football help integration which also connects you with the Bundesliga Foundation…
Neuer: On the occasion of the charity football match between my foundation and Dirk Nowitzki's foundation, we started to support LitCam and their 'Football meets Culture' programme. Initiatives such as this one are designed to introduce children to the German language through football. It's a very simple concept: you play one half of football, and then have a half of learning German. I know that more and more refugees are taking part. We're supporting the project with the Manuel Neuer Kids Foundation in Gelsenkirchen and I'm delighted that the Bundesliga Foundation is doing this on a national scale.