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A. Rüdiger

Rudiger reveals support for Afcon hopefuls Sierra Leone after funding operations for local children

14:03 GMT 14/01/2022
Antonio Rudiger Sierra Leone
Thomas Tuchel described his defender as an 'aggressive leader' on the pitch, but away from it he has a gentle side

Antonio Rudiger has revealed he is supporting Sierra Leone in their African Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign in a bid to remain connected to his parents' home country.

His mother Lily was forced to flee Sierra Leone after the civil war in 1991 and had her child in Germany, where she subsequently settled.

Growing up in the new Neukolln area of Berlin, the Germany international has become one of the best defenders in the world. Still, he remains connected to his roots through football and his charity work.

What has Rudiger said about Afcon?

"Of course, I'm cheering on Sierra Leone from London," Rudiger told GOAL. "I am in regular contact with one or two of the players through Instagram. I actually get on very well with Kei Kamara.

"I think the team's mentality is really outstanding. They are all amazing characters who are going all in every game. The 0-0 against Algeria alone was a huge success - they can only win in the next few games as well.

"They defended incredibly well and have a world-class goalkeeper in Mohamed Kamara. Luckily the boys don't play again until Sunday, so I can watch it all on TV again after our game against Manchester City."

How else is Rudiger connected to Sierra Leone?

Rudiger is involved with children's aid organisation BigShoe in Lunsar. In recent weeks, Rudiger has enabled children with club feet to be treated through costly but life-changing operations.

Symbolically he has helped eleven kids, the number of players in a football team. Alongside that, he has sent each one a Chelsea shirt with the name Rudiger on the back.

He said: "Every child has dreams, but not all of them have the opportunity to pursue them - I want to change that!

"Through football, I have been given the opportunity to help others and make the lives of these children and their families better. Seeing the children smiling in the photos also makes me happy.

"I am very connected to my second home. We have more projects planned. My first visit to Sierra Leone five years ago taught me above all that everything that we supposedly call a 'problem' here in Europe is not really a problem at all."

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