On the 8th of May 2018, the German Football Ambassador e.V. honoured German football coaches, players and idols at the Federal Foreign Office, who contribute to the positive image of football and Germany through their sporting and social commitment abroad. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and initiator of the German Football Ambassador e.V. Roland Bischof welcomed around 200 guests from different areas such as politics, sport and business.
Football is multicultural.
Roland Bischof, founder of the Association German Football Ambassador, comments: "German football is multicultural. Perhaps this is why German football professionals become cosmopolitan athletes who get socially involved where they work".
The award ceremony took place for the sixth time. In addition to the prize of honour, a jury of experts chose the winner of the main category "Coach", the audience chose the winner in the category "Player" and a referee legend was accepted into the "Hall of Fame".
Football inspires young Japanese kickers.
Nominated for the main prize "Coach 2018" were Gert Engels, co-trainer of the Japanese FC Vissel Kobe, where Lukas Podolski also plays, Theo Bücker, coach of the El-Nejmeh club in Lebanon and Ernst Middendorp, technical director of True Bangkok United in Thailand. The top-class jury, chaired by Rainer Holzschuh, editor of the popular German football magazine "Kicker", awarded Gert Engels with the main prize, who contributed to German-Japanese football exchange for more than 20 years. In addition to professional sport, he decided on the sustainable "Future Local" project. Its aim is to give children and young people affected by the tsunami disaster a better future through football.
"Japan has become my second home. Our countries have a lot in common. I love my job as a coach in professional football, but also with the kids," explains Gert Engels. "Football turns children and young people into "team players" and strengthens their character. Strong children become strong people, even outside of sport."
Football unites people and cultures.
The Audience Award in the "Player 2018" category went to Loris Karius from FC Liverpool. The Biberach goalkeeper prevailed over ten other nominees in the public voting with great support from Liverpool fans. Together with Jürgen Klopp and Emre Can, Karius forms the "German Trio" at the English Premier League Club. Due to the entry into the final of the Champions League he could not be personaly there, but he thanked the guests through a video message. Second and third places went to Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) and Leroy Sáne (Manchester City).
"Winning the Audience Award means a lot to me, as it is a recognition of my performance in England. Football has the strength to bring people and cultures together. I am proud to represent Germany here in the best possible way."
Over 50 years active in worldwide football.
The prize is awarded to Otto Pfister, a football globetrotter and one of the longest working football coaches in the world who lives in Switzerland. Football is his religion, his politics, his international understanding. In his laudation, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas praised the 80-year-old national coach of Afghanistan for his many years of commitment to international football.
Pfister himself remained modest: "The most important thing is to focus entirely on people and culture, mentality and religion. You have to respect your counterpart, even if he has a completely different environment."
Referee legend cultivates sports relations around the globe.
The referee legend and sports diplomat Walter Eschweiler was on site and was welcomed into the "Hall of Fame" of the association, for his many years of commitment to the international sports relations of the Federal Foreign Office among other things.
Numerous previous award winners, nominees and supporters were also present, including Gernot Rohr (national coach Nigeria), Monika Staab (football development expert), Doris Fitschen (manager DFB women's national team) and Eckhard Krautzun (football expert for China).