Antonio Rüdiger: “Where I come from, pressure is not about football. Pressure is not knowing what you will eat tomorrow.”
“Every time I feel the slightest pressure when I lace up my boots before a football match, I think about a specific memory, and I am instantly at peace.”
The first time I ever went back to Sierra Leone with my parents after the civil war, we were riding in a taxi from the airport, and we got stuck in traffic. We were sitting there, not moving, and I was looking out the window at all the poverty and hunger. All these men and women were selling fruits and water and clothes and things by the side of the road to the people coming from the airport.
And that’s the moment when I understood why my parents would never call our neighborhood in Berlin “the ghetto.”
They would always say that it was heaven on earth. And it wasn’t until I went to Sierra Leone that I finally understood their perspective, because this guy came up to our car selling bread, and he looked really desperate. We said, “No, no. We’re O.K.”
Then another guy came up to our car selling bread, and he tried to sell it to us even harder. He was talking about how fresh it was.
“No, no. Thank you.”
Then a third guy came up to our car selling bread, and he was really hustling. He was talking about how this was the best bread in the city, and to please, please, please buy the bread from him.
I think about this memory when I start to feel any pressure from football. Because the truth is that all three of those guys were selling the exact same bread, from the exact same bakery, to the exact same cars.
One of those families would have a plate of food on the table.
The other two, maybe not.
That is pressure. That is real life. #justfootball
Antonio Rüdiger is a German professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for La Liga club Real Madrid and the Germany national team. Rüdiger began his career at VfB Stuttgart, representing their reserves in 3. Liga and the first team in the Bundesliga. He joined Real Madrid this year from English Premiership Club Chelsea.