Refugee camp visit to Jordan in 2016 inspired Arsenal player Mesut Özil to join forces with former Arsenal comrade Mathieu Flamini in order to debut a revolutionary men’s grooming kit, UNITY
For most of his playing career at Arsenal, Mesut Özil has experienced a whiplash of criticism from pundits and even from fans for what some consider to be a lackadaisical demeanour on the field, but this couldn’t be more of an oxymoron of his off-field personality – because those who are close to Özil characterise him as a kind, shy and charitable person. To Özil, a practicing Muslim, giving Zakat (charity) is a key component of his life since it is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Two years ago, Mesut Özil visited the Zataari camp in Mafraq – which is a one hour and twenty-seven-minute journey northeast from Jordan’s capital city Amman. Many Syrian refugees have descended on the Zataari camp having fled the civil war in neighbouring Syria. It was at this life-changing location where Özil experienced a greater understanding of how much he needs to increase his charitable actions to aid under-privileged people around the world, besides visiting and meeting children who look up to him.
In a conversation with Adam Bate of Sky Sports, Özil stated: ‘It is the biggest thing I have ever experienced. I saw things there that if you just saw them on television it would not touch you in the same way. Kids with no parents trying to survive. It was like a prison. They were just trying to live their lives with hope’.
‘It changed my life. I realised that I could be doing much more than I was doing’.
This motivating encounter paved the way for a reunion between Flamini and Özil – in the hope of initiating a conversation with the world through a project which caters for both their separate goals. That is; Özil’s intention is to raise awareness regarding people’s lack of health care, whereas Flamini’s interest leans towards producing a product that is environmentally friendly.
Flamini’s passion for environmental issues is proven through his biochemical company which aims to end the world’s reliance on oil:
‘Mesut has been involved in social impact issues for many years now, such as that trip to Jordan with the kids. I have been involved in sustainability for 10 years. My focus was more towards the environment. Mesut’s focus was more towards the people’.
Health issues and world preservation are connected because the first people to experience the harsh consequences of climate change will be the most disadvantaged. This is supported through a report released earlier this year by World Bank which suggested that there could be as many as 143 million climate migrants.
‘The numbers affected could eventually be many more than those emigrating because of war’, Flamini points out. Özil, reflecting on his previous meeting with those Syrian refugees, adds: ‘Whether it is war or the climate, they have the same problem in the end’.
Mesut Özil hopes to retain his commitment to helping the less fortunate long after he has retired from playing football, as he views this act as an obligatory duty considering his position in life:
‘We have to do this because, whether you like it or not, we influence people. There are kids who are literally looking at what we are doing, so if we can stand for something, then they might say that that’s something great and they might follow’.
‘It is a lifelong responsibility for me’.