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Footballers say #ThisTimeImVoting in European elections

May 23, 2019

European Union politicians have thanked a small selection of footballers for their efforts in a get out the vote campaign. Kevin Trapp and Eintracht Frankfurt played a large role in a rather muted campaign.

German ballot paper on background of EU stars
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani thanked a series of international footballers this week for their efforts to drum up voter awareness for the European elections. 

"I am very happy about the participation of so many European professional footballers in this campaign. It's proof of the unity and pride felt by Europeans for their continent, and it sends a strong message on the protection of the future of Europe." 

The #ThisTimeImVoting (or #DiesmalWaehleIch in German) campaign got a small selection of footballers on board, hoping to profit from their impressive reach online. Voter turnout has been a perennial problem for the European elections, with authorities hoping to buck a decades-long trend of declining participation in 2019. 

Graphic showing voter turnout from 1979 to 2014 in European Parliament elections
Turnout has been sliding since European elections began, and is particularly poor in eastern Europe

The campaign was able to attract a series of international players, but household names were notable in their absence. Ten European players' associations supported the project, but not Germany's VDV or the English Premier League's influential PFA. The Brexit-laden UK wasn't expecting to participate in these European elections at all until the last minute.

Kevin Trapp, Frankfurt, Nilla Fischer and others

Voting begins across Europe on Thursday, and critics might argue that the efforts of players' union FIFPro and a handful of internationals were too little, too late — given that the project nominally started in December.

One professional to act early and with determination was Finland captain Tim Parv. He posted his first video on the issue back in April, giving voters plenty of time to ensure they were registered properly, and pinned it to the top of his social media profiles. 

Frankfurt goalie Kevin Trapp posted a promotional video, subtitled in English and German, to his Instagram page on Tuesday.

"We stand together for our club colors. It's time to stand together for our communities too! VOTE with me in the #EUelections2019 and #ChooseYourFuture," Trapp wrote in accompaniment to a slick video using footage from Frankfurt's Europa League heroics this season. 

Nevertheless, this relatively modest post from Trapp still solicited more than 47,000 views, dwarfing the paltry 48 retweets secured by the European Parliament's main Twitter feed using the same video.

Kevin Trapp celebrates a Luka Jovic goal during the Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Chelsea Europa League semifinal. May 2, 2019, Frankfurt.
Trapp and Frankfurt shone in Europe this season, falling just short of the Europa League finalImage: imago

'We need to take care of each other'

Swedish women's team captain and departing Wolfsburg legend Nilla Fischer was another face of the campaign, which laid particular importance on securing both male and female footballing support. Fischer shared material from the FIFPro players union to showcase her involvement.

"It's very important that we, all the different players, take a stand and get people to vote, because it does matter in times like this," Fischer said in a video first published in April. "I think with the direction the world is going now that it is a very important subject. We need to take care of each other and everyone should have equal rights."

Nilla Fischer (center of shot, kissing the trophy) celebrates with the Wolfsburg women's football team after winning the 2019 German Cup. May 1, 2019, Cologne.
Wolfsburg and Sweden captain and LGBT rights advocate Fischer sealed the last of numerous titles with Wolfsburg this monthImage: Getty Images/AFP/I. Fassbender

Portugal's women's captain Claudia Neto, Austrian international Stefan Schwab and Bulgarian midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov were among the other participants.

According to information from the European Parliament, their get out the vote campaign had been at least a moderate success. It said on Wednesday that 300,000 people had registered either to receive information on the campaign, or to actively participate in it, 34,000 of them in Germany. 

Voting runs from May 23 to May 26 across Europe; Germany votes on Sunday. Results will follow on Monday.

Read more:  'Vast' far-right disinformation networks discovered in EU

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Mark Hallam News and current affairs writer and editor with DW since 2006.@marks_hallam