Culture and sport are sometimes thrown together, so it won’t come as a total surprise to see an international footballer appearing on Connected Cultures. Vincent Kompany takes centre stage here, the superb and natural leader of Manchester City and Belgium. Led by such a genuinely inspirational captain, both teams consistently rise to the occasion in their respective competitions. Kompany sets a fine example to all on the pitch, and has a depth of intellect that few players can rival in post-match interviews and beyond.
Kompany’s presence can also be felt far away from the field of play, through his charitable works, most notably in his role as an international ambassador for the charity SOS Children’s Villages. So, here we have an athletic, cultural figure of enormous presence and credibility, social awareness and compassion.
Photo via SOS Children's Villages
Let’s throw in a few more qualities : strength, commitment, and dignity. Then there’s respect, both for others and from others. Leading by example. Always being supportive. Keeping calm, but knowing when to dive in for the cause. Ever striving for excellence and battling hard to achieve the desired results. The right results.
On 13th May 2012, Manchester City captured the Premiership title for the first time in forty-four years. I was unashamedly in tears. Talking on Match of the Day, Kompany reflected that
“Miracles do happen in Manchester, but I guess on both sides of the road now”.
This is my favourite sporting quote of all time. Let’s not dwell on the other side of the road, but in previous decades the grass always seemed greener there. On the blue side, many people remember the last gasp goal by Sergio Aguero, and who could forget such a moment ? But I also like to remember a whole season of brilliance all round, including the massive contribution of an amazing captain.
Kompany holding the Premiership trophy for the second time, 2013/14 season
In the World Cup in 2014, although entirely oblivious to this, Kompany was instrumental in getting me noticed by the wonderful author Chika Unigwe. Chika has a voracious appetite for news and developments on just about everything, but especially about Nigeria, the Netherlands and Belgium. Throughout the tournament her Twitter account was buzzing, and I nearly fell off the chair when she ‘favourited’ my reference to the brilliance of Belgium’s number four.
Kompany in action for Belgium
In sport there are always going to be a few mishaps and misdemeanours. Perhaps Kompany tries ever so slightly too hard at times, allowing occasional over-exuberance to be mis-interpreted by misguided referees with their own agendas. But all defenders run the risk of getting their timing slightly wrong. Then there’s the odd howler, about once a season, the most memorable being a quite ridiculous but classic own-goal which looped high and horribly over Joe Hart's despairing gloves. But that was unfortunate and it could happen to anyone. The dominant factor is commitment.
On the charitable front, Kompany has enjoyed a long time association with SOS Children’s Villages. The organisation helps vulnerable children and families worldwide, providing protection, opportunities and sponsorship programmes. Kompany has pledged to do all he can to help. He periodically visits camps, gives encouragement to the young people and helps with fund-raising. Notably, he has family ties with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and was closely involved in the opening of the village camp in Kinshasa.
Kompany clearly benefits from his involvement as well. To quote from his comments on the SOS Children’s Villages website :
“I enjoy nothing more than playing a little game of football and listening to the stories of the SOS mothers, the vision of the national director, the great things that have happened in the Village, the difficulties they encounter... It inspires me, and gives me the strength to do as much as possible. Glad to feel part of the family. A global family!”
For an insight into the SOS Charity Villages work and Kompany’s contribution, have a look at this inspirational video :
With his Belgian hat on again, Kompany established the BX Brussels football organisation for disadvantaged youngsters. He describes this as a “social sports project” which gives opportunities and guidance to young people. Kompany finds joy in helping create the opportunity for a thousand BX Brussels kids to play every weekend.
Kompany enjoys massive popularity far beyond the Etihad stadium. On Twitter he has 2.29m followers. His priorities are clearly stated : “proud captain of @MCFC and the @BelRedDevils - @BXBrussels believer and international SOS Children's Villages ambassador”. It would be hard not to follow !
BBC Radio Manchester recently asked the question “Who is Manchester City’s greatest ever captain ?” For me, it has to be Vincent Kompany, for his exemplary leadership, dignity, humility and good judgement, for vital goals along the way and for equally priceless defensive interventions. For his determination and commitment to the cause. And yes, let’s be honest, for those life enhancing Premiership titles. More widely, Kompany deserves admiration for his extensive contribution to struggling communities, both home and abroad, for his social awareness, for supporting humanitarian causes and for championing those who seek to improve the lives of less fortunate people.
At the time of writing, Manchester City are in their rightful place at the top of the league, and Belgium are on the verge of qualifying for the European Championship finals. Impressive. #MCFC #TeamBelgium
© Eddie Hewitt 2015