Sports & Politics

"Girls" enrich the sport

Retired police officer Uwe Schmitt (60) was elected chairman of FC Concordia Wilhelmsruh at the German capital Berlin at the end of 2018. Founded in 1895, the club is one of the founding members of the German Soccer Association. Under Schmitt's leadership, the club is developing ambitions other than just shining on the big stage with the first team: social aspects and youth development - and a special focus on girls' soccer - are important points.

Style PASS: You have a view of the world based on your professional experience; you keep a close eye on social developments, including their upheavals. What conclusions can you draw from this at club level?

Uwe Schmitt: We want to help. Help who? The children and young people, many in Berlin with a migration background. In addition, the club explicitly wants to give girls and young women room for talent, fairness and sporting ambition.

Style PASS: Sounds good, but what does it look like in practice?

Uwe Schmitt: We are a suburban club, we want to integrate. For example: Before my time, most of the money - we don't have much of it anyway - went into the first men's team. Of course, if they play well, they're a flagship team, but we've redirected the money because we feel we have a social obligation above all. And that means giving children and young people a perspective. In this respect, the club and I are asked not only to focus on the sporting top, but to offer a ready concept that reaches as many young people as possible.

Style PASS: This approach obviously aims further than the purely sporting!

Uwe Schmitt: Exactly! First of all, we have to take the environment of the children and young people - even if we wish for a different, better one in many places - as it is. That means getting them off the streets, out of boredom and lethargy, and into a life of togetherness, regardless of their family and ethnic background. Sport can be an important building block in effectively improving the lives of young people.

Style PASS: What does that mean in practical terms?

Uwe Schmitt: Very simple: First of all, rules. One is that only German is spoken on the pitch. We have made the observation that many children despair at "kindergarten" because perhaps too little German is spoken at home - we can't change that as an association, but we want to help ensure that language competence is such that the children can later shape their lives with confidence. With young people, we try to help them internalize the basic skills of education. My ambition is that when one of my young players applies to join the police force, for example, he must not fail the aptitude test. We want to make sure that there are no school dropouts in our club.

Style PASS: Sounds a bit like German virtues?

Uwe Schmitt: That sounds a bit mean of you, but yes, why don't we just call it that? With us, they learn that it's not just the trainer who has to show up on time, but everyone who wants to participate. They also learn that to win the ball, fouls are not allowed and will be penalized. Whoever fouls three times gets to sit out once.

Style PASS: Are you successful with this social commitment?

Uwe Schmitt: A small example: We had hosted a tournament, an energy company helped us. The woman from the marketing department said to me, "That's good what you're doing." Anyone who has learned that punctuality and fair behavior are also part of the job immediately has better chances of being hired by us. Our goal is for every player to get an apprenticeship, and I use our network to do that.

Style PASS: In our conversation, I can hear that you are critical of some of the sensitivities in our country.

Uwe Schmitt: What a lot of fears for the future we and our young people are facing. Corona, climate, the resulting constraints, people are suffocating from self-doubt and restrictions. We set our guiding theme against it: To take the fear away from the children, to let them grow up without fear and to give them the feeling for their own abilities and to have joy in life. They should be perceived as positive multipliers within their community.

Style PASS: "Concordia" means, as I learned in school, "unity".

Uwe Schmitt: That's what sport stands for, and team sport in particular: being there for each other, helping each other in critical situations, passing the ball to the better-positioned teammate, in other words, putting one's own ego on the back burner a bit. That's a good school.

Style PASS: Clubs are also in competition with each other. When you took office, you said you wanted to lead the club to its former greatness. What do you mean by that?

Uwe Schmitt: We don't focus on a flagship team, but we want to represent the entire age range in girls', women's, youth and men's soccer, we even have an Ü 70 department, and above all we want to take children with a migration background with us. And convey joy. At the last Christmas (before Corona), the kids didn't get a Playstation or other knickknacks, we don't have money for that, but a normal Christmas calendar. With chocolates in it, and everyone was really happy. We are down-to-earth, and that goes down well!

Style PASS: How hard is it to get girls interested in soccer?

Uwe Schmitt: Not at all. Our girls' division is growing rapidly. We started with the E-Junior girls, who are having a lot of fun, are eager and committed to the game. Our goal of building a women's team for the regional league is also within reach.

Style PASS: How large is the proportion of girls with an immigrant background?

Uwe Schmitt: In our three girls' teams, 70 percent. We help to get them out of isolation, we give them opportunities for self-assertion, we all talk to each other in German, which also helps later in life.

Style PASS: What can the boys learn from the girls?

Uwe Schmitt: Girls and young women often face the world and its challenges with more ease than the boys. I experience the "girls" as witty and humorous, I personally think that's great - moreover, they are absolutely intrinsically motivated as far as their attitude towards sports is concerned.

Style PASS: What can "big" politics learn from the Concordia Wilhelmsruh club?

Uwe Schmitt: Whoever brings people into the country must not then leave them alone. We care, and we are proud of that!

Thank you very much.

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