DFB president Reinhard Grindel, the DFB delegation and former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger have returned from a busy five days in Russia. These included eight meetings in two cities, a “friendly match for peace” for the U18 team and finally, attending the Russian Cup final at the World Cup stadium in Volgograd.
“We offered a different image of the West compared to what is often depicted in the Russian media. This summer will also provide an opportunity to do this. Hundreds of thousands of people from Europe and the USA will come here and will be curious to see what Russia has to offer. A tournament like this can help to build bridges,” said Grindel following the trip’s conclusion.
Thomas Hitzlsperger was closely involved in the preparation for the trip. The runner-up from the 2008 European Championship acted as an advisor to the DFB during the planning for the “Russo-German week of football”. The key objectives for the week included the following – dialogue with fans, civil society, youth international matches and thinking about the common history shared by Germany and Russia. “We managed to achieve everything we set out to when we began planning for this trip one year ago. The DFB delegation used this short time very effectively. For me, these past few days have been extremely positive.” For now, this will be Hitzlsperger’s last meeting in Russia since the 52-time former Germany international will not be returning to Russia in the summer.
Wreath-laying ceremony at the Mamajew Mound
There was plenty arranged in the DFB’s schedule. The delegation took part in a Russian-German fan expertise dialogue and a discussion with Russian ‘bridge-builders’, i.e. social charities as well as educational and cultural providers. In addition, they visited the Mamajew Mound, the Germo-Russian military cemetery at Rossoschka, the U18 international match against Russia and attended the Russian Cup final between the less-known FK Tosno and Avangard Kursk. “The DFB is a world leader in football on many areas. It is incredibly important to us to cooperate with the DFB,” said the Russian general secretary Alexandr Alaev, who together with Grindel laid a wreath in memory of the fallen at the Mamajew Mound and in Rossoschka. They were also accompanied by the Germany U18 team and about 40 Russians from the Volgograd football academy.
Grindel: “We must defend peace together”
In his speech in Rossoschka, Grindel reminded everyone that “our young footballers often have big dreams. Both in the Bundesliga and the national team, their aim is to become world champions. The young soldiers who perished here 75 years ago also had their dreams. A criminal regime cut these dreams short.” The DFB president went on to add, “what happened here is still relevant to us today, because we all need to defend peace and freedom every day whilst safeguarding human rights.”
Finally, 1. FC Köln’s Yann Aurel-Bisseck and the Germany U18 captain donated over 10,000€ on behalf of the DFB towards the maintenance and renovation of the memorials. Bisseck gave an insight into the days spent in Volgograd from the team’s point of view: “For us, it was very emotional to know and understand that we represent a country which committed terrible acts here in the past. We cannot undo these wrongs. We want to strengthen the Russo-German friendship that we have and it was our pleasure to do this.”