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He graduated from professional football

The mechanisms of the football business repeatedly collided with the seriousness of the former central defender. He castigates excessive consumption and says: “It doesn’t matter how much you pay for something. Money will come tomorrow.”

Neven Subotic private: He has nothing to do with professional football anymore.

Patrick Teme

Neven Subotic welcomes in Dortmund’s Kaiserviertel. The district is a dignified part of downtown Dortmund, there are cafés, wine shops and all kinds of restaurants. Here the former soccer player runs the office of a foundation that bears his name. The bell plate is a bit faded, it’s easy to miss.

It’s less than four kilometers to the Westfalenstadion, where he played for almost a decade. A few stops on the subway, three quarters of an hour’s walk at a brisk pace. And yet the distance to the old place of work could hardly be greater – to the place that gave him a few experiences that many people, not only in Dortmund, are unforgettable.

The career is dealt with at a gallop

Subotic won two championships with Borussia, in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, and won the cup once. In 2013, Dortmund advanced to the final of the Champions League. So he has an illustrious résumé as a footballer, material for a biography like so many footballers write. Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently appeared a second time with a biography; Bastian Schweinsteiger had his portrait taken by Martin Suter. The fact that Neven Subotic wants to set himself apart from his colleagues is already evident in the title: “Give everything: why the path to a fairer world begins with us”.

It’s not one of those footballer biographies that cling to the great moments of a career. It is true that “Give everything” is an outline of the career of footballer Neven Subotic. But this one is dealt with at a gallop, as if the main aim was to leave these events behind quickly.

In 2011, the young defender was one of the pillars of the Dortmund championship team.

In 2011, the young defender was one of the pillars of the Dortmund championship team.

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It seems a little paradoxical. Because countless footballers have written against forgetting their own careers; their books should immortalize their work. Her memoirs of a special kind fill entire libraries.

Things are different for Neven Subotic. The 33-year-old’s book can also be seen as an attempt to finally overcome his past as a professional footballer. However, were it not for this successful past, he would be of no service to his current ventures. With many of his foundation’s projects, he has dedicated himself to well construction in Africa.

On the cover, Subotic poses with Dutt. He welcomes the conversation casually. The conversation barely touches on present-day football. Subotic says he doesn’t miss him. That is always remarkable. Because some footballers experience the end of their career as a kind of cold turkey. In Dortmund in particular, where the players play in front of 81,000 spectators every two weeks, it can be difficult to get used to it.

The football player Neven Subotic is not easy to forget. He is too closely associated with a time when Bayern were not the hegemon of the Bundesliga for the last time. Under the direction of coach Jürgen Klopp, Dortmund duped Munich twice.

In the 2013 Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund lost 2-1 to Bayern.  On the right in the picture is Neven Subotic.

In the 2013 Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund lost 2-1 to Bayern. On the right in the picture is Neven Subotic.

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It was an electrifying time for all those who feel connected to Borussia. Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels, both gifted with outstanding talent, were nicknamed the Kinderriegel because of their youth – a reference to a milk chocolate that is quite popular in Germany. What they lacked in routine, they made up for with brilliant positional play, game intelligence and tough tackles. Soon they were seen as what Bayern lacked at the time: the best central defender duo in the Bundesliga.

Neven Subotic celebrated the championship title in 2011 exuberantly.

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What must have happened to declare such a time as venial, yes even more: to partially question its meaningfulness?

Sure, Neven Subotic would never claim that the years in Dortmund were meaningless for his biography. Rather, they have accelerated his development: he would not be where he is now if he had not experienced things in this way. The insane sums that are being pumped into the business made him ask questions, as well as the senselessness of excessive consumption, as practiced by many professionals. “In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you pay for something. Money will come tomorrow.” The effects that a fraction of the enormous salaries have elsewhere are immense, says Subotic – in Ethiopia, for example, or in Kenya and Tanzania. The results of his foundation’s work can be viewed on site. Just a few days after the meeting, he sets off again.

The colleagues donate little

Footballers don’t mind showing commitment. “Common Goal” is the name of an initiative that encourages professionals to donate one percent of their wages as a contribution to a fairer, better world. Juan Mata participated; Serge Gnabry is there, as is Paulo Dybala. Mats Hummels, Subotic’s former Dortmund teammate, also joined the initiative early on.

One percent wage: Subotic’s facial expression seems undecided, somewhere between disgusted and amused when he says: “I would be ashamed if we were only based on one percent.” The foundation costs him 350,000 to 400,000 euros a year, he says.

With his foundation, Neven Subotic is involved in well construction in Africa.

With his foundation, Neven Subotic is involved in well construction in Africa.

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Footballers rarely speak so clearly. But this directness should not come as a surprise. Because Neven Subotic has not only had a reputation for being an outstanding representative in this trade for a long time. His seriousness was considered a salient feature of the central defender. Whenever magazines, television, newspapers and radio stations were looking for the unusual football professional – they would have struck gold in Subotic if he had participated in the media spectacle without reservation. The fact that he didn’t participate was more in line with his nature.

Now, with a little distance, he dares to take a sober look at that time – and the way there. He writes about the escape story that shaped the family. The Serbian family from the Bosnian part of the former Yugoslavia did not initially feel at home in Germany. She moved to the United States.

Subotic’s focus is primarily on the father. He was once a talented footballer himself before an injury caused by a foul threw him off track. From then on, he projected his ambition onto the children. In Florida, he enrolled the daughter in coach Nick Bollettieri’s tennis talent factory. Monica Seles and Andre Agassi had been formed into world stars with tight methods.

But the hope turned out to be an illusion. Above all, Subotic remembers the relief at not having been in his sister’s place: “The experiences weren’t nice. I was never jealous – and really not malicious. I was just glad I wasn’t the one who had to do it.”

The later professional footballer sees the phase as “ugly”, which was far more than a time of exaggerated ambitions. “You basically lose your father and have a coach in the house instead. It’s like taking the boss home with you and he checks how well you work and whether everything is subordinate to this one goal. » In the warm climate of Florida, the children had to drink four liters of water every day. Orange juice, which the siblings consumed in large quantities, did not count in father’s calculations.

Subotic praises Klopp – and he’s never indiscreet

His sister didn’t become a tennis pro. Instead, the young defender’s breathtaking career began back in Germany. She would hardly have gotten into such a high gear if his path had not crossed that of coach Jürgen Klopp. In the environment, as Subotic describes it, Klopp comes across as a solitaire. He promoted Subotic in Mainz, he brought him to BVB. He put him on the bench and brought him back, not without explaining why. Clear, direct communication.

Not every coach was like that. Subotic doesn’t follow suit. “Give everything” is not a reckoning in the usual sense, but rather a balance sheet that serves to visualize. The inclined reader learns that Subotic and Klopp’s successor Thomas Tuchel did not find a connection to each other. But Subotic never gets indiscreet.

For Neven Subotic, coach Jürgen Klopp is a solitaire in the football business.

For Neven Subotic, coach Jürgen Klopp is a solitaire in the football business.

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Neven Subotic did not have a Damascus experience that heralded his transformation. It was more of a gradual process, he gradually alienated himself from his job, which was also once a passion. Subotic also writes about a woman who introduced him to the reading of Immanuel Kant, which rarely remains without consequences.

Right at the beginning of «Give Everything», Neven Subotic quotes the late US writer David Foster Wallace: «The really important freedom requires attention and openness and discipline and effort and empathy, to really take other people seriously and to make sacrifices for them, over and over again, in infinitely different ways, totally unsexy, day after day.”

It sounds like an ethically motivated set of instructions. Neven Subotic feels obliged to her. And maybe he cherishes the memory of coach Klopp above all because he met his players with empathy instead of cold reason, despite all their ambition. A formative impression – and yet the exception in the player’s career.

The business: Neven Subotic does not need many words to describe the milieu in which he used to work. It’s usually just about glamor and spectacular transfers and who “is where and where in the table”. In the meantime, says Subotic, he “cannot answer such questions for a million euros”. But then he narrows it down: “Except in Germany, where the same master always wins.”

Professional football no longer means anything to him

The discussions about professional football are irrelevant – the former professional insinuates that. And he’s not wrong at all. Measured against events of existential importance, even every Dortmund championship coagulates into pure folklore for the followers.

His attitude towards football seems clear at first glance, but becomes a little more ambivalent the more he talks about it. He vacillates between astonishment and annoyance – as if he’s having a hard time forgiving himself for the supposed mistake of having ended up in the professional business. He tells a story that happened in Berlin when he was playing for Union. The Berliners had just been promoted to the first Bundesliga, an underdog with proletarian charm. He took the S-Bahn to practice. Passers-by and fans congratulated him.

Neven Subotic shakes his head. To be congratulated for something that millions of people do every day: That shows how crazy things are in professional football. However, the fact that football enables him to do what he is doing now is a contradiction that he cannot resolve either.

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