Ladies and gentlemen,
It makes me very proud, that my hometown is the host of the European Maccabi Games this year. As a football player, I took part in several big tournaments and I know how great the feeling is when athletes from different countries meet each other, and when people from all over the world get enthusiastic about one event. As a result, borders dissolve. The borders in our heads, too.
Spectators and athletes get together. We find out a lot about us and get to know new things, if we only go through the world with the necessary curiosity and openness. Especially Berlin shows how the world can change. I didn’t perceive the division of this city but I grew up in a Berlin in which one experienced the changes every day. Because of my skin color, I experienced things against which I fight today as a football professional. I experienced racism, exclusion and prejudices.
Today, Berlin is one of the world’s hippest cities. I experience this on my numerous travels. Everybody is interested in this city – and many people come here to live in Berlin, to experience Berlin. They are curious and Berlin is curious about them.
That is why events such as the European Maccabi Games are important for a city like Berlin. They provide the opportunity to familiarize with history through sports. They show how to overcome borders and they create integration. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city. And that means that we welcome everybody here.
And when the Maccabi Games take place on the area of the Olympic Stadium, where the Olympic Games took place under the leadership of the Nazi regime in 1936, it shows what sports can accomplish. Giving respect and creating tolerance. Jointly sanding up for fairness– and that does not only count on the playing field.
Therefore, I am happy to contribute to the Games in Berlin as the patron for the football and futsal tournaments. Thanks to these Games, we demonstrate how important sports is to connect people. Everybody follows the simple rules of sports, no matter how they look or where they are from. Sports can help to make this awareness transferable for the life beside the playing field.
I wish all participants and spectators lots of fun and a good time at the Games and moments of reflection, how important respect and tolerance are.
Jérôme Boateng (*1988) is a German national football player and world champion.