Kai Havertz: ‘People are still homeless and I want to help’ – Chelsea midfielder on effect of German floods
Kai Havertz has packed a lot into the last 11 months since he joined Chelsea, but the recent floods in his native Germany have put it all into perspective and now he wants to help.
Leaving his homeland to join the Blues for £71m would be enough to digest for most 21-year-olds, but switching teams during a pandemic, being criticised for performances and then getting coronavirus made it a “difficult” start to English football.
Yet Havertz finished the club season with a flourish by scoring a finely-taken winner as Chelsea beat Manchester City to win the Champions League.
“It was a strange year for all of us I think, and for me personally as well,” he told BBC Sport. “I moved into another country, to another club, and yeah, everything was just new.
“But I think how the year ended personally and as a team, that helped. Now I’m used to the league, I’m used to the players and everybody, and I think this year will be even better.
“Maybe I learned from it also, and I grew as a football player, as a person and that’s always the most important.
“So, yeah, it was a tough time, but when we talk about the floods, other people have had a more difficult time than me.”
Then in July, following Germany’s Euro 2020 exit at the hands of England, Havertz took a well-earned holiday with his family and thought little of a phone call with his dad, who was back home and said it had been “raining hard for three or four days”.
“To be honest I didn’t take what he said seriously because sometimes that happens,” the now-22-year-old says. “But then he sent us the videos and pictures.
“It was horrible. You could see everything was flooded, cars were floating around, there were people in the water. It was hard because I lived maybe 20 minutes away from where it happened. I mean, I grew up there.”
At first, Havertz, who comes from the North Rhine-Westphalia town of Aachen, said he “made the mistake” of thinking this type of thing happened to people far away. He didn’t know what to do, but “in a few days” realised he wanted to make a difference.
So he and his family sat down and tried to “figure out” the best way to help the German Red Cross, who – a month later – are still serving 10,000 hot meals a day to thousands of people without electricity and water across the country.
In addition to a 200,000 Euro donation, Havertz came up with the idea to make 100 pairs of specially-designed football boots, which will be sold and auctioned to raise funds. Havertz will wear a pair when Chelsea face Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.
“We just want to raise money with it, so that people can buy the shoes, and the boot is maybe a symbol of my support and my respect to people who lost everything,” he says.
The floods might have been a few weeks ago, but the former Bayer Leverkusen player says raising awareness is still important because so many people are still living with the consequences of what happened.
“Maybe everybody has already forgotten,” he adds. “My family lives in the area and we know that there are so many homeless people. They lost everything and they don’t have a place to sleep, or there are houses without electricity and people that don’t have food or clothes.
“So I think right now it’s still a good time to help. Still they have a lot of problems.”
Havertz says the devastation in Germany has also encouraged him to learn more about climate change.
The floods and recent heat waves across Europe have brought the issue to the top of the news agenda. Last week the United Nations released a report which said humans were changing the climate in “unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways”.
“I’m a guy who loves nature and who loves animals,” says Havertz, who has bought a dog since he came to England and has a donkey sanctuary back in Germany.
“I want to learn much about climate change in the next couple of years, because I think we are humans and we can change it.”