Off the Pitch: Leon Goretzka
Off the pitch, Leon Goretzka, the 26-year-old Bayern Munich and Germany star midfielder, has been a leading voice in numerous social causes as well as COVID relief. He has spoken out against racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany-AfD) Germany’s far-right political party. During COVID lockdown, along with Bayern Munich and Germany teammate Joshua Kimmich, he started a relief program We Kick Corona.
“It’s important for me to educate myself and to attend things that aren’t to do with football.”Leon Goretzka
Speaking Out Against the AfD
The AfD is Germany’s most right-wing political party. The party is largely against further European integration, against immigration, against LGBTQIA+ rights, and extremely nationalistic. Additionally, the AfD is also the leading party against taking COVID precautions, with areas that have high AfD party membership seeing the highest rates of COVID in Germany.
Goretzka has taken a very firm stance against the AfD. He has spoken out against the party for several years. Rising nationalism is a topic of concern for Goretzka. He is very vocal when it comes to denouncing the party and its beliefs. Much of Goretzka’s political involvement is in direct contrast to the AfD. He has spoken against the Afd’s position on COVID as well as social issues such as racism. In a pre-Euro 2020 interview and photoshoot, Goretzka posed with a flag reading “kein fußball den faschisten” (EN: No football for the fascists).
“I still have one hope for the election: that the AfD, which has repeatedly proven in the pandemic that it is not an alternative, will lose as many votes as possible. If I may play for our country, I would like to play for our values and constitution, not for a country that has not paid attention in history. Black-red-gold are the colors of democracy, not the right!”Leon Goretzka; interview with DB Mobil
The AfD has not been kind to Goretzka. Whenever he speaks out against the party, there is always a social media backlash; frequently telling the midfielder to “stick to sports.” Sticking to sports, however, is not in Goretzka’s plans.
Holocaust Remembrance and Education
Another area off the pitch Leon Goretzka focuses his attention on is Holocaust remembrance and education. He believes in educating on the events of the past to prevent similar situations from occuring in the future.
In November of last year, Goretzka met with Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer. After having read her book, ‘Versuche, dein Leben zu machen’ (‘Try to Make Your Life’), he was able to hear Friedländer tell her story in person. The meeting was impactful to Goretzka, saying “having a conversation with a survivor made it all totally real.”
“Leon, it was people who did that.” Shortly after November 9, I was able to meet the concentration camp survivor Margot Friedländer and talk to her about anti-Semitism, Jewish life in Germany and her own biography.
I felt it was a huge privilege that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia made contact with Ms. Friedländer and I will never forget the conversation for my entire life. I recommend her book, ‘Versuche, dein Leben zu machen’ to anyone who would like to find out more about Ms. Friedländer.
We are all challenged to ensure that something like this never happens again. That’s her mission, that’s what she fights for every day. I promised her I would do the same. Let us together exemplify the values of a cosmopolitan Germany and keep the great promise of our Basic Law through words and deeds. #NoToRacism #NoToAnti-Semitism #NeverAgain
Goretzka has also visited the Dachau Concentration camp, just a few miles outside of Munich. Speaking on the visit he said, “I know how much it affected me. It should be mandatory for all school classes in Germany to go.”
Additionally, through We Kick Corona, Goretzka along with teammate Joshua Kimmich donated 75,000 Euro (currently just over $89,000) to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum. These funds will be used to host the 2021 edition of the international education conference. The funds will also be used to develop an exhibit on sports and athletes at the camp.
No Discrimination of Any Kind
Perhaps, the best way to describe Leon Goretzka off the pitch is simply that he does tolerate discrimination, period. He is extremely outspoken regarding racism, xenophobia, and homophobia.
One of Goretzka’s first public comments on racism and xenophobia came in March of 2019. During Germany’s 1-1 draw with Serbia, video footage emerged of racist and xenophobic abuse being directed at Leroy Sané and Ilkay Gündoğan. In a press conference following the incident, Goretzka spoke out against that behavior.
“I can only call on everyone to act with a lot of courage and put people like that in their place.”Leon Goretzka on racial and xenophobic abuse directed at teammates
Homophobia is also a topic that Goretzka has spoken out against. His stance on this matter was brought to the forefront of discussions during Euro 2020 after his comments in support of rainbow lights at the Allianz Arena. Following the match, Goretzka posted a photo to his social media to further show his support for Pride.
Goretzka believes in promoting diversity. He takes any opportunity he gets to encourage and support those facing discrimination. Not only does he speak up against discriminatory behavior, but he also encourages others to do so.
For A Better World
Leon Goretzka is unafraid to be emotional when acts of discrimination upset him. When he speaks on these matters, he speaks from his heart with conviction. He goes searching for answers and seeks to truly understand not just simply the current situation, but the history and underlying prejudice that created it. Goretzka seeks to understand the worst of humanity, in order to bring out the best in humanity.
He uses his platform to promote kindness, understanding, and diversity so that everyone can live in a world free of discrimination. While he can not change the world on his own, by speaking out and taking action he can encourage and inspire many people to open their minds and change their worlds.