First Team

“It’s never about where someone comes from”

Yannick Gerhardt on his commitment against far-right extremism and discrimination.

Yannick Gerhardt vom VfL Wolfsburg geht lächelnd auf den Trainingsplatz.

“We are Team Diversity – because it doesn’t matter where you come from” is the current campaign slogan for VfL Wolfsburg’s seventh diversity matchday, as the club once again takes a stand for tolerance and against all forms of marginalisation. VfL star Yannick Gerhardt, who has already taken a clear stance against the far right on several occasions in the past, fully recognises this. In this interview, the midfielder talks about the political climate in Germany, the atmosphere in the dressing room and his special role as a footballer.

Yannick Gerhardt, our society appears to be increasingly fractured. The spread of right-wing movements worries many people. How do you deal with this?

Yannick: “Of course, I notice the mood in Germany. I’m still optimistic and hopeful that we’ll continue to hold together as a strong democracy. I think it‘s important to clearly distance yourself from discrimination of any kind and, for example, as a footballer who is also in the public eye, to set a positive example, express your opinion and stand up for democratic values.”

Is it also a topic of discussion in the changing room?

Yannick: “Yes, a football team is like normal society. There are different interests. Obviously, you speak to a few others about the political situation, but we’re all agreed on one point: a football team is a good example when it comes to bringing together people of different backgrounds and skin colours. Only your performance matters on the pitch. You can be judged or even criticised for that, but it’s never about where someone comes from or what someone looks like.”

A football team is a good example when it comes to bringing together people of different backgrounds and skin colours.
Yannick Gerhardt

What do you make of the recent talk in Germany about the ‘remigration’ of immigrants?

Yannick: “It shocked and bewildered me. That hark backs to a dark period in Germany. At the same time, though, I’m also encouraged by the reactions to this in Germany. We have seen that people in many cities, including Wolfsburg, are protesting against it – against far-right extremism and discrimination. It gives me hope that we will remain strong as a democracy.”

At the rally in Wolfsburg that you mentioned, you yourself stood on the stage and spoke up.

Yannick: “That was something special for me as a footballer. I saw it as an honour to stand up for these values as part of VfL Wolfsburg. Everyone is invited and welcome to show their colours and send out a statement that we’re not going to drift further to the right as a society. All is not well politically, there’s no denying that, but we should never forget the values that we pledged allegiance to and of which we should be proud.”

As a professional athlete and also essentially as a white, German man, you’re in a privileged position. Is commitment against racism therefore particularly important?

Yannick: “I’m very aware of that, but especially if you’re privileged, you have to stand up against discrimination of any kind. There have been many positive movements in recent years, for example ‘Black Lives Matter’, where all kinds of people have demonstrated. If the purpose is positive and in the spirit of equal treatment and honouring all human rights, then I'm there. Then it doesn't matter whether I have privileges or not. Everyone can participate and take responsibility.”

More on the diversity matchday