“I want to make a difference in my life”

Football player Neven Subotic defends his opponents’ balls on the grass. With his foundation, he is on the offensive – and is helping in Ethiopia. Professional footballers like to drive up in high-powered noble cars. Neven Subotic comes to the interview in Köpenick on foot. The Serb doesn’t even own a small car. While many of his colleagues celebrate luxury, he remains down-to-earth. What’s on his mind? “I want to make a difference in my life,” he says. At the end of 2012, he set up his foundation ( nevensuboticstiftung.de ), which supports water and well projects in Ethiopia. At that time he was 23 years old and was under contract with Borussia Dortmund.

Before that, he had “got involved here and there”, sometimes in the neighborhood, sometimes in a hospital or in some project. When an inquiry came, he said yes. But that, he realized, was just a kind of watering can principle. He was looking for something else, for a long-term commitment.

As a child, he had seen how important care was. His parents fled the civil war in former Yugoslavia in 1990 with the two-year-old and his sister. They found shelter in a Black Forest village. “We were lucky because there were always people who supported us,” says Neven Subotic. “There was the Egle family, for example, who regularly invited us to their home for coffee and cake.” He didn’t just see it as a nice gesture, he also felt real interest. “They didn’t want to explain to us how the world works, that was an exchange on an equal footing,” he says.