Mesut Özil is not only a FA Cup winner this year, he's also just won a German Football Ambassador award too. Germany's midfielder chatted with DW about his charity work and the image of German Football.
Mesut Özil: 'Lots of cultures, one team'
DW: What does it mean to you to win the Public Award from the German Football Ambassador project?
Mesut Özil: It means a lot to me, because it has been voted for by the fans. I'm proud to receive it.
Arsenal is known for being a different type of club: it does a lot of charity work, it's involved in education programs and youth projects. To what extent can football really change the world? And what will you be doing with the prize money?
Of course, in my job, I can really make a difference in a few ways. We are very privileged. People who know me will tell you: my goal is to help kids as much as possible. I like to spend time with them. I've already talked to my team of helpers and we are going to use the money to help young burn victims in Africa. We've already set up a plan of how to do it.
DW: How did you have the idea of setting up a charity and what are the goals of your organization?
I have been planning for a while to start a charity. I have helped children before with projects. Because I now have a good network I can help a lot more of them, faster. That's why I planned this organisation. The main aim is that you give children a positive future. There are lots of kids out there who really can barely enjoy life. Our goal is just to make their lives a little nicer.
Arsenal has players on their books from 12 nations. Last year, when I was speaking to Per Mertesacker, he told me it was great that he heard so many languages at the club: Spanish, French, German and English for instance. He said he learnt something new every day. What's it like for you?
I have lived overseas for a few years now. I enjoy it, because it gives me the chance to learn other languages. When the players speak Spanish, I understand it. Then there are others speaking French or English. It's really a great thing, when there are so many different cultures in the one team. The best thing is that we are respectful with each other. We all enjoy the experience together.
For years German football had the image in England of being very pragmatic and not very attractive. There's a famous Gary Lineker quote that goes: “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” Since 2010, Germany has become famous for playing attractive football. And you are part of this change. How much has the image of German football improved in England?
I think even when I was in Spain, straight after the 2010 World Cup, people were really fascinated with the German team. We were a young team, with young coaches. We wanted to do something different, and now we have one of the strongest teams in the world. And other countries know that.
I think people around the world are happy when a team plays like we do. But we don't just want to play attract football, we want to have success too. And, we are prepared to work hard. Our team spirit is amazing, you really feel that. This group of coaches has changed everything. In the past, Germany used to win by just a fighting spirit. Now, people know that we play some great football.
What was it like when you returned to Arsenal as a world champion?
Of course, everyone congratulated me. There are not many people who get to be world champions, and we managed it. It was a great experience for us all over there, especially because it was Brazil. The country is crazy about football. We really enjoyed it. I'm proud that I am part of this team and now we have other goals. We want to qualify for the European Championships. Now that we are world champions, opponents really want to put on a good showing against us. Our goal needs tob e: to play football like we did in Brazil. We are looking forward to the matches. People in Germany enjoy watching us and they will have a lot to look forward to.
DW: How did your teammates react here at Arsenal? Did they throw a big party or did they not make a big deal out of it?
Some players have said that they don't want to come up against us in their EURO group. Because they know that Germany plays well in big tournaments. We make jokes about it inside our team here, but there is always plenty of respect there too.
The 26-year-old midfielder Mesut Özil has been playing for Germany since he was 2009. He was awarded the Public Prize in the German Football Ambassador competition in 2015. For more information, visit www.fussballbotschafter.de