Fulham's Moritz Volz has won the 2008 PPF Community Champion Award, run in partnership with The Observer newspaper.
The Community Champion Award was established to recognise professional players who make an outstanding contribution to the community. The boxer Ricky Hatton (nominated by the Professional Boxing Association) and the England cricketer Alastair Cook (nominated by the Professional Cricketers Association) were the runners-up in this year’s award.
Brendon Batson MBE, Chairman of the PPF, summoned up the judges views:
“So many professional sportsmen support good causes in their local communities and it is great to recognise the outstanding contribution that Moritz has made. His work with the Prince’s Trust, Kick 4 Life and local schools stands out as a shinning example of good community work.”
Over the years Volz has been a keen supporter of many football-initiated schemes, such as Kick 4 Life, but this year his in-depth work in his local community in west London with the Prince's Trust has marked him out for special praise.
How did you get started as a Prince's Trust ambassador?
I have always enjoyed the community work we do at Fulham, and other bits and pieces like the Premier League Reading Stars campaign, but I wanted to do more. It is all very well turning up, signing things and giving out certificates, but you're not really engaging with the local community that you live in. I hate the way we get on buses and don't say a word to each other. Working with the Kingston branch on regular 12-week projects I am getting to know the young people that live around here and I feel like I am bridging that gap.
How do the kids respond to you?
When they first meet me they just want to know what car I drive and how much I earn. I try to explain that I am not that kind of footballer - I prefer to cycle around, or take public transport most of the time, driving in London is pointless anyway! It takes a bit of time but as the young people get to know me they start to see me as a person rather than a footballer.
How important is football in helping young people?
Me being there is not about football, it is just about them having someone to talk to and helping them to develop their confidence. We do all sorts of things together, mostly not related to football - we had a cookery class at Merton College, where everybody made their favourite recipes. I am a bit obsessed with cooking - I'm forever baking cakes - and I made my favourite pasta dish, with salami and fennel. That didn't go down too well with the kids, though, I don't think they'd ever seen fennel before...
What is the most difficult thing about working with young people?
There are plenty of challenging aspects. You must also be prepared for disappointment. I remember one afternoon I went to catch a train at Motspur Park and I saw one of the boys I worked with messing around. He was supposed to be at school and pretended not to see me. After everything we had talked about, I felt pretty depressed that day.
What about the folding bike challenge...?
Last November I came up with a fundraiser called The Folding Bike Monopoly Race. Basically the guys in the Kingston team were giving me stick about riding my little fold-up bike everywhere, so I challenged them to a race - me on my bike versus the rest of the team on public transport visiting every site on the Monopoly board, and taking pictures to prove it. I got all 26 stops done in four hours with plenty of time to spare. And we raised lots of money for charity.
Footballers have a pretty bad reputation as a group, why can't they all be like you?
I think it is unfair to have a go at footballers. We all fulfil our community and charity responsibilities as defined by the clubs, it's just that some people want to take it further than others. We are all different and I think we should accept that.