“The football scene, like many other sectors, is a true reflection of the society,” – Michael Preetz, on xenophobia in football, integration, and volunteering. Michael is the Managing Director of Hertha BSC Berlin and GoVolunteer Ambassador for Diversity and Tolerance.
GoVolunteer – “You have been very active in the professional football scene, first as a player and then as an official for more than 30 years. Has the way you deal with players from other socio-cultural backgrounds changed over time? Also, is German football afflicted with xenophobia? If it is, then what is being done to counter this?”
Michael Preetz – “I don’t have the feeling that anything has changed in this respect over the years. Especially in football, it is completely normal for people of different origin or skin colour to bond and play together.
Unfortunately, a few misguided people had a problem with this in the past. However, today we document every little incident on the pitch, but also beyond that, and make sure that everyone is treated equally. But in general, I do not think that German football has a problem with xenophobia. Like other sectors, football represents the society we live in.”
GoVolunteer – “Have you ever had any experience with integration projects or volunteer work? If so, what was it and why did you choose to pursue it? (e.g. as a child in a tent camp, in a youth group or as a volunteer in sport?)
Michael Preetz – “For example, at Hertha BSC, we have the integration project ‘MitternachtsSport’, which has been funded by the Bundesliga Foundation since 2010. On weekends, the project offers free football courses with socio-educational support to the young people in Berlin, while teaching them the values of respect, tolerance, and fair play.
The same goes for the ‘Welcome to Football’ project. Hertha BSC, Champions ohne Grenzen e.V., and ‘SC Siemensstadt are actively cooperating in the Berlin Welcome Alliance. Part of this Berlin cooperation includes a weekly public training for young refugees as well as the ‘Football Plus’ project, which provides counselling services, among other things. I was personally involved in these projects and experienced their importance for the refugees.”
GoVolunteer – “How is Hertha committed to the refugees in Berlin? And do you encourage your players to get involved in the city outside the club?”
Michael Preetz – “As mentioned before, there are different measures and projects at Hertha BSC regarding the integration and support for refugees. The players are well aware of it too. Among other things, the players can also get involved through our initiative ‘Hertha Helps.’ In addition, there are some people who are already involved in various social projects.”