Neven Subotic’s footballing abilities have brought joy to Borussia Dortmund fans worldwide, but the big-hearted defender is also helping put a smile on the face of thousands of children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Through the ‘Neven Subotic Foundation’, the Serbia international aims to improve access to fresh water and thereby help underprivileged children fulfil their potential. On Earth Day, he told bundesliga.com he hopes more professional footballers will get involved in similar projects.
bundesliga.com: You can't help the team right now as you’re injured, but you have already helped a lot of other people. The 'Neven Subotic Foundation' helps provide people in the poorest regions of the world with access to clean water. How do you manage to combine such a demanding project with a professional football career?
Subotic: I don't see a problem. But firstly, let me say that I can help the team now. I can't score goals or stop them, but I can support the boys, encourage them, or simply give them a high-five or a slap on the shoulder when they're going into a game. They're small things, but they can help as I have learned from my own experience. Regarding the foundation, there are enough hours in the day outside of football to take care of children who are only a few hours away by plane, but whose lives are a world away from ours. I delegate a lot of tasks and can count on phenomenal colleagues and specialists, and great volunteers.
When you start to think globally, you quickly begin to become aware of the hardships people endure elsewhere
bundesliga.com: Can you briefly describe what the foundation does exactly?
Subotic: I see it as our duty to help people in the poorest regions of the world, and above all those who suffer the most: the children. I would like to help give them access to clean water, which means building sanitary facilities. We'll soon be going into our fourth year and have built a phenomenal team in this time, which means we can work highly effectively. The Foundation has collected nearly a million euros, which has meant 34 projects helping 20,000 children get access to clean water. That's incredible.
I see it as my duty to share the luck that I have had with others who have not had that
bundesliga.com: Why did you get involved in this area?
Subotic: It has always been important for me to really get to know people, and not just scratch the surface of these things. During my time at Mainz, I would go to a children's home every week and play with the kids there. I became aware then just how unique and special every child is and how much potential they have. Just by being there, I gave them more confidence, because a professional footballer was interested in them. That was cool, and suddenly the kids were no longer outsiders in the playground. I was able to see how these children developed over two years.