SITTINGBOURNE, United Kingdom — Antonio Rüdiger was dubbed one of the 10 best defenders in the world by RadioTimes following his 2022/23 campaign for Real Madrid. Best known for his composure on the ball and tenacious tackles, there can be no doubt that the 30-year-old has found footballing acclaim. Thousands watched Rüdiger put his body on the line against Manchester City, defending a one-goal lead to win the 2021 Champions League Final. Far fewer are aware of the German national’s philanthropic efforts off the pitch. Here is a run-down of the voluntary work undertaken by Antonio Rüdiger in an effort to tackle poverty in his mother’s homeland: Sierra Leone.
The Antonio Rüdiger Foundation
In 2022, Rüdiger established his own charitable foundation. Its broad and ambitious aims include:
- Funding Access to Education: In 2020, Rüdiger donated more than $100,000 to support Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education initiative. The policy encompassed a plan to support more than 2 million primary and secondary school children throughout the country.
- Inclusivity in Sport: After a visit to the Sierra Leone Amputee football team, Rüdiger described the trip as “part of our focus on sports inclusivity.” He explained that the team had “the same passion and love for football as I do” and should not be excluded from the game as a byproduct of their already debilitating disabilities.
- Crisis Response: With a population of 8 million, the COVID-19 pandemic put Sierra Leone’s health service in turmoil. In an attempt to ease the strain on frontline health workers, Rüdiger sent them food and sourced 60,000 masks for the general population.
Rüdiger’s philanthropy does not blindly leave his bank account from a comfortable life overseas. The football sensation traveled to Sierra Leone where he personally donated £40,000 to kick off funding for his burgeoning foundation. “I don’t want people to only see Antonio Rüdiger the footballer,” he said. Rather, he hoped to set an example in Sierra Leone that “the young generation can look up to.” Such rhetoric no doubt stems from the destabilizing impact of 11 years of civil war and its ongoing ramifications for the West African nation.
FIFA World Cup 2022
A mark of his philanthropic intent, Rüdiger pledged to donate all his earnings from the 2022 World Cup to give life-saving surgery to 11 children suffering from congenital clubfoot in his hometown Lansar. President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, Thomas Brima, told VOA Africa that Rüdiger’s promise of his salary, “which could have been so dear to him…speaks volumes” of his character and understanding of life on the ground in Sierra Leone. Evidently, those in urgent need of medical treatment, who are otherwise unable to afford it, rely on the philanthropy of athletes like Antonio Rüdiger for their basic needs and welfare.
The Significance of an Individual Effort
Antonio Rüdiger’s philanthropic work separates him from celebrity mystique and humanizes an undeniably talented footballer into a conscientious member of society. Of course, one man alone does not have the means to eradicate global poverty — but it is certainly a good start. The cogs have been set in motion for other sports personalities to follow suit. On and off the pitch, with the world watching, Antonio Rüdiger has set an example of leadership worth following.
– Imogen Townsend
Photo: Wikimedia Commons