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Neven Subotic in Ethiopia: ‘I can’t just sit on the beach thinking I’ve made it’


Every summer, Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic visits Ethiopia to learn about the work his foundation is doing in some of the world’s poorest communities. He says it feels like a second home.

On a sunny afternoon in May, Neven Subotic is among hundreds of thousands of Borussia Dortmund fans watching the German Cup final in Dortmund city center. “Having already experienced the final as a player, it was also nice to celebrate together with the fans,” he says. “Football can have such a positive effect because it’s all about people. If you won on the pitch but there were no fans, then something would be missing.”

Subotic is a people person. It’s a quality which made the Serbian defender an instant favorite in Cologne during his loan move from Dortmund last season and which also influences his life off the pitch. In November 2012, the 28-year-old launched the Neven Subotic Foundation which aims to provide a better future for children in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Every summer, he travels to the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, where WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) projects supported by his foundation provide local people with access to safe, clean water, sanitary care and hygiene fit for humans

“We all want to live in a better world and we all have the same aim,” Subotic tells DW, traveling from village to village along dusty and sometimes unrecognizable roads. “We all want to create a world for the next generation where our children can live meaningful and humane lives.”

Neven Subotic knows better than most what it’s like to grow up in difficult circumstances; his family fled the war in their native Bosnia in 1994 to move to Germany. While the football-mad youngster joined local side TSV Schwarzenberg, his parents worked hard to make ends meet and help those family members still at home.