Jens Lehmann is a true goalkeeping legend. Not only is he loved by Arsenal fans for helping them go a season unbeaten in 2004, but he is also one of Germany’s best ever national ‘keepers.
In recent years following his retirement from the professional game, he has become a Laureus Ambassador and dedicated his efforts to promoting Sport for Good through football.
Jens has even become the patron of the Germany-based Laureus Kicking Girls project.
And it is a project very close to his heart.
The project was established in 2009 in the socially disadvantaged districts of Bremen and targets girls aged between eight and 16, particularly those from ethnic minorities The aim is to help provide the girls with access into local clubs and ensure that, once there, they can be successfully integrated both into the club and society as a whole.
Jens explains: “We are dealing with children, girls, who are from backgrounds which are socially really disadvantaged and sometimes they do not have money to pay for their sports. And furthermore, they are from backgrounds where people have migrated out of their country into Germany and where they do not really like their girls being part of football teams, which are normally run by male coaches.
Laureus Kicking Girls focuses on neighbourhoods where social, economic and cultural problems often accumulate and particularly girls have little chances to participate. Combining different elements, like football classes exclusively for girls, qualification of junior coaches and the organisation of tournaments and football camps, the program reaches out to girls in their social environment, making organized sport more accessible.
Through these exercises girls are taught teamwork, respect for others, assertiveness and the importance of give-and-take.
“As a former professional footballer the project is of course very important to me. Sport unites people. On the pitch it does not matter if a girl’s wearing a headscarf and the other not, whether they believe in different religions or come from different countries . Through sports they learn togetherness, fair play and respect.
Jens continues: “I was quite fortunate with my football playing and can provide a nice life for my children. But these people are not that fortunate and so that's why I want to give something back and support this project.”
Laureus Kicking girls is working in twelve German cities. The project has over 40 schools within its project network and more than 800 pupils are practicing every from ages six to 10.
There are also more than 100 girls aged between 13 to 17 who are working towards a football coaching licence to work with the younger children in primary schools.