Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 January 2022:
Yesterday, Friday 28 January 2022, President of Sierra Leone – Dr Julius Maada Bio pronounced Antonio Rüdiger as ‘Brand Global Sierra Leone Football Ambassador’ and handed him the country’s diplomatic passport, at a ceremony attended by family members, well-wishers and government officials held in State House, Freetown.
Antonio Rüdiger is a Sierra Leonean-German professional footballer who plays as centre-back for Premier League club, Chelsea and the Germany national team.
Sierra Leone’s Director of Protocols in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Lamina Paul Vamboi, said it was a remarkable and historic occasion in the history of football in the country, as one of Sierra Leone’s distinguished compatriots was appointed Brand Global Ambassador by President Bio.
He added that the ceremony reaffirmed the commitment by the government of Sierra Leone to canvass and promote sports as well as sporting activities, with the aim of ensuring the country’s participation in sports on the international stage.
“Today, Antonio Rüdiger is being recognised for his outstanding role and contribution to Sierra Leone in the area of promoting sports. Also, he is a benefactor to His Excellency the President’s top priority of promoting Free Quality Education in the country,” Mr. Vamboi noted.
Reading the citation for the awardee Antonio Rüdiger, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, said the humble personality of Rüdiger was the reason for his successes on the pitch and his highly decorated football career. He added that the footballer had also launched his foundation, focusing on sports education, sports infrastructure, sports inclusivity and literacy.
“Our recipient does not relent or hesitate to donate to causes dear to his heart that benefit millions of children in Sierra Leone. His mission, it seems, is about changing lives and changing stories. On Sunday 19 January 2020, he met with His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio, on the margins of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London and pledged Le1 billion ($101,000) for Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education initiative.
“No doubt, it still remains the largest contribution by a single individual to the Free Quality School Education programme,” he disclosed.
In a brief acceptance speech, Antonio Rüdiger (Photo above) expressed gratitude to President Julius Maada Bio for the recognition and award and extended appreciation to his family without whose support, he said, the award and recognition would have been impossible. He added that he felt honoured and proud to accept the award.
“Thank you very much. I feel honoured to serve this country and put this country in a better light,” he concluded.
While handing over the diplomatic passport to Antonio Rüdiger, President Dr Julius Maada Bio congratulated him on his award and thanked him for accepting such a distinguished honour. He added that Rüdiger has shown that he is not only a Sierra Leonean by blood, but also by his action when he donated one billion Leones to the endeavour of advancing education to every child in the country.
President Bio further noted that the country appreciated the efforts of Rüdiger in improving the lives of his fellow compatriots and assured that whenever the footballer is on the pitch playing, the country tunes in to watch him with love and passion.
“We confer this on you because we think you deserve it. We need to do more for you as you continue to do more for us. We are proud of who you are, what you are doing. Your humility in greatness is what we admire about you as Sierra Leoneans. We are proud of you and hope that you can represent us,” he noted.
THE CITATION FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT OF MR. ANTONIO RUDIGER AS “BRAND GLOBAL SIERRA LEONE” FOOTBALL AMBASSADOR, READS AS FOLLOWS:
“Your Excellency, Ministers of Government, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: Benjamin Franklin once said, “out of adversity comes opportunity.” Our honouree hails from Kono district – born at a time when Sierra Leone civil war ravaged the nation and displaced populations. Against all overwhelming odds, he persisted and prevailed and today he has excelled and triumphed. His humble personality belies his successes on the pitch and his much highly decorated career.
“Since his international debut for Germany in 2014, he has won 49 caps scoring two goals five years apart in two world cup qualifications. At club level, he has had a distinguished playing career from VfB Stuttgart through AS Roma to Chelsea where he has plied his trade with since 2017 with assured verve. He has won numerous honours with Chelsea Football Club including the FA CUP, the SUPER CUP, the CHAMPIONSHIPS LEAGUE, the CONFEDERATIONS CUP including eight man of the match performances.
“On the field of play, he is described as a “tough tackler” with a “commanding presence in the air.” Indeed, a tough tackler he has been off the field too where he has worked assiduously to tackle some of his country’s challenges. His voice has been trenchant against racism in football but he has also maintained a soft spot for the vulnerable and the underprivileged. He has used his professional football career to model what is possible and as a platform for enhancing lives.
“Since the establishment of his Foundation in Sierra Leone he has undertaken impactful projects that effuse good conscience and magnanimity
- He has been feeding 250 kids in various communities.
- WhenCOVID-19 struck, he mobilised five Chelsea & Arsenal footballers to support the “Mask up Freetown Campaign” by LunchBoxGift & partners. The project produced 60,000 face masks for market women across Freetown.
- He has provided humanitarian support for victims of tragedies including for Fire victims of the Mabayla Community.
- To communities, he has inspired kids who would dream and can become with donations of jerseys and football kits.
- He has constructed a water well in his mother’s village in Kono that serves over 250 people.
- He is a permanent sponsor of the LunchBoxGift mobile library project.
- He has also supported “Big Shoe” – a project that has provided lifechanging surgery for eleven children in Sierra Leone. His elation was obvious in a tweet on occasion of the successful surgical procedures on the eleven children. “Thanks so much to @BigShoe_11 to help these children in need in my 2nd home in Sierra Leone This is what really matters in life to see them smiling again.
“Together we made it possible to give 11 kids a better life again – May God protect and bless them all” But it is that he does not relent or hesitate to donate to causes dear to his heart and that benefit millions of children in Sierra Leone.
“His mission, it seems, is about changing lives and changing stories. On Sunday 19 January 2020, he met with His Excellency President, Dr Julius Maada Bio, on the margins of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London and pledged Le 1 Billion (USD 101,000) for Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education initiative. No doubt, it still remains the largest contribution by a single individual to the Free Quality School Education programme.
“He has not rested on his honours and his successes. He has launched his Foundation focusing on four key pillars: • Sports Education • Sports Infrastructure • Sports Inclusivity • Literacy – Language, digital literacy, and numeracy.
“Your Excellency, when you received the honouree’s pledge to free quality education in Sierra Leone, you said, “The narrative about Sierra Leone must change and it is the duty of every Sierra Leonean out in the diaspora to come on board the rebranding process”.
“Our honouree has been rebranding Sierra Leone with deliberate commitment and great passion. Ladies and gentlemen, with great acclamation, Sierra Leone indeed proudly honours one of its own, MR. ANTONIO RUDIGER, AS “BRAND GLOBAL SIERRA LEONE” FOOTBALL AMBASSADOR.”