as an ambassador and is part of the EcoAthletes network.
You are an ambassador for the Football4Climate programme and a champion at EcoAthletes. What motivated you to get involved in environmental issues?
Well, I’m not really an environmentalist, but I can see that many things aren’t working well. In the world of football, we use too many plastic water bottles and generate too much waste by taping and plastic headbands, for example. I think we can find better alternatives. During matches, with fans eating and drinking in the stadium, too many products are used for five minutes before being thrown away. Even with collection and sorting, too much waste is generated during matches.
Besides, our training centre is on a small island on the Seine in Paris, so we are always next to the water so we notice that it’s never really clean, that people throw their rubbish there. It’s horrible, these plastics are there for a lifetime. I would like to find sustainable solutions.
As a sponsorship manager at PSG, what is your approach?
I look for fairer sponsors who would like to help us change things little by little. The environment is a very important theme for the club at the moment. At the head office too, I have started to implement changes. Before, everything was made of plastic, we used to drink coffee and throw away the cup. Now there are no more plastic dishes but washable cups and glasses. We have also given reusable bottles to all employees.
And then there is the new training centre where PSG is committed to several aspects including the environment. I think that the club is on the right track, but we can always progress. For example, I would like to find sponsors who would like to follow us and work on environmental issues with us.
And what about as the ambassador for Football4Climate and EcoAthlete?
At Football4Climate, the idea is to formulate messages to help people understand why it’s important to protect the climate and the environment, but we’ve only just started the work. In my opinion, it is difficult for many people to understand why and how things should be done.
For example, recycling: I find that in France it is difficult to sort things out properly. You have to go out of your house, you have to go far away to deposit the glass, so you have to put it away at home first – it’s not comfortable. And when things aren’t comfortable, people often don’t do them. In the United States, we understand the importance of recycling from an early age – and it’s easy. You have three different bins in front of your house, and this ease changes a lot of things. In France, it’s not easy, so it’s important to pass on messages to help people understand the importance of these gestures and to do better.
With EcoAthletes, it’s a bit different. Football4Climate is really there to help the football world and communicate with the fans. EcoAthletes is more like a think tank that brings together professionals from different sports to discuss solutions to the environmental issue in sport.
You are the first person from the football world to join EcoAthletes. Is football lagging behind on environmental issues?
No, I’m not sure about that. I know other footballers who are very committed to this issue. And EcoAthletes is not the only think tank, so maybe it’s just that footballers are committed elsewhere.
What role do you think professional footballers should play when it comes to protecting the environment?
I don’t believe that footballers are obliged to play this or that role. The only thing we have to do is play football well. We have to be good athletes and live for the sport. To commit ourselves on top of that is good. But it doesn’t have to be an obligation. So if you have an opinion and you want to use your platform, yes, it’s great because you have supporters and people listen to you.
But in my opinion, you shouldn’t force athletes to do or say anything. When an athlete chooses to get involved, you feel that it’s something they care about, and that there’s a real willingness to pass on messages.
What message would you like to send to your supporters?
I would like to say that we only have one world and that it is very important to do things well. For me, it’s a question of respect. I come from Southern California so I grew up by the sea and for me, to see all the things that people throw into the water, to see all the plastics with the fish and the turtles, is inconceivable.
So when we consume something, we have to respect the world around us and sort our waste. I believe that everyone has an obligation to do this properly.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]