Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and German Football Ambassador e.V. honour professional footballers of the heart 2018 for their committed and cosmopolitan appearance abroad

On 8 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 abroad through their sporting and social commitment. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and initiator of the Football Ambassador, Roland Bischof, welcomed some 200 guests from the worlds of politics, sport and business.

Football is multicultural.
Roland Bischof, founder of the Association of German Football Ambassadors, commented: “German football is multicultural from the kids on – whether in Biberach or Berlin. Perhaps this is why German football professionals become cosmopolitan sportsmen and women who are socially committed where they work”.
The award ceremony took place for the sixth time. In addition to the prize, a jury of experts chose the winner of the main category “Coach”, the audience in the category “Player” and a referee legend was inducted into the “Hall of Fame”.

Dürener trains young Japanese kickers and a Cologne striker

Nominated for the main prize “Coach 2018” were Theo Bücker, coach of the club El-Nejmeh in Lebanon, as well as Gert Engels, co-coach of the Japanese FC Vissel Kobe, for whom Lukas Podolski is also striker, and Ernst Middendorp, Technical Director of True Bangkok United in Thailand. The top-class jury of experts, chaired by Kicker publisher Rainer Holzschuh, chose Gert Engels, who has contributed to German-Japanese football exchange for more than 20 years. In addition to professional sports, he decided to support the “Zukunft Lokal” project. Through football, he wants to help and strengthen the children and young people who experienced the tsunami disaster in 2011.

“Japan has become my second home. Our countries have many things 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”.

Biberacher takes off in Liverpool
The Public Award in the category “Players” went to Loris Karius of Liverpool FC. The goalkeeper from Biberach prevailed over ten other nominees in the public voting and 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 final entry into the Champions League, he could not be there, but he thanked the guests present via video message. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) and Leroy Sané (Manchester City) took second and third place.
“Winning the Audience Award means a lot to me, as it is a recognition of my performance in England. Football has the power to bring people and cultures together. I am proud to be able to represent Germany here in the best possible way.

Cologne kid is a football globetrotter and an international expert

The award goes to Otto Pfister, football globetrotter and one of the world’s longest-working football coaches, 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 fully engage with people and culture, mentality and religion. You have to respect your counterpart, even if he has a completely different environment.”

Bonn referee legend and sports diplomat whistled Games without borders
Referee legend and sports diplomat Walter Eschweiler was on site and was inducted into the club’s “Hall of Fame”, among other things for his long-standing commitment to the international sports relations of the German Foreign Office.
Numerous previous award winners, nominees and supporters were also on site, including Gernot Rohr (national coach Nigeria), Monika Staab (football development expert), Doris Fitschen (manager of the DFB women’s national team) and Eckhard Krautzun (football expert for China).