11 good deeds by footballers in 2018: Sterling, Mata, Salah, Kante…

Quick Reads

Footballers do not have the best of reputations among the media and general public – but several of them once again showed themselves to be good people in 2018.

Such are the riches on offer at the top level of the game that professional players are viewed by many to be out of touch with reality, but the truth is that a good number do an enormous amount for the communities in which they play in and grew up in.

Much of their generosity goes unreported, but here are 11 examples of footballers doing great things in 2018.

Raheem Sterling

Despite the bizarre efforts of sections of the media to paint him as some kind of monster, there have been several stories which reveal Sterling to be extremely generous and kind-hearted.

In November, for example, he visited 12-year-old cancer fighter Damary Dawkins in hospital in London on his day off to appeal for potential bone marrow donors of African-Caribbean heritage to come forward.

The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust’s co-founder Beverley De-Gale OBE said: “Damary is the most excited we’ve ever seen him. To have a Premier League champion here to help with the campaign is like Christmas come early for him.

“He’s been trying to get over the fact that Raheem has come from Manchester after having a game in France earlier in the week specifically to meet him and help to find this donor.”

Sterling regularly gets involved with Manchester City’s charity work, too, and has certainly used his success to help look after his family, buying a house for his sister in February – just as he had done for his mum previously.

Mohamed Salah

Salah had to work incredibly hard to get to where he is so it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

And in April it emerged he had donated $450,000 to buy land for a much-needed sewage treatment works close to Nagrig, a farming village in Gharbia.

Salah has earned the nickname ‘Happiness Maker’ for all the help he has given to his former home, and he regularly returns to visit old friends.

“I can’t tell you how much he means to us, honestly. What he’s done for us and for Egypt, I just can’t explain it at all. I’m just tearing up speaking about him right now,” Matrawy Abu Habsah, a teacher, told Middle East Eye.

“He still comes back to his village and visits us all the time. He’s not a stranger to us and he never will be.

“He doesn’t like the spotlight and he doesn’t make a fuss wherever he goes. I saw Mohamed yesterday at a funeral and I asked him how he was and he just thanked God.”

Juan Mata

Mata has long been regarded as one of the nicest guys in football, someone it’s simply impossible to dislike, and in April it was reported he had started helping Manchester United’s kitroom staff after games.

The Daily Mail reported a source as saying: “Juan has taken it on himself to stay behind and give a helping hand to the ordinary staff. It’s a huge job to unload all the gear off the coach and takes a good while.

“People have been saying what a great gesture it is but it’s just typical of the man – we are saying he has to be the nicest man in football!”

N’Golo Kante

In September, having missed his Eurostar train to Paris after Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Cardiff City, Kanté Googled and then visited a local mosque in King’s Cross where an Arsenal fan, Badlur Rahman Jalil, plucked up the courage to invite him to his house.

He probably expected the politest of refusals, but Kanté actually took up the offer and spent around two hours with Badlur and some of his friends.

“It’s Islamic teaching to invite guests to your house for dinner, so I asked him,” Badlur told the BBC.

“He came with me and my brother because he was on his own and said he was only going to go home anyway.

“He beat us all at FIFA and then we watched Match of the Day. It was a really nice evening.”

A Chelsea spokesman later confirmed the story, adding: “That’s typical N’Golo”.

It’s just one of many reasons why we love the man.

READ: ‘He never said no’ – 11 reasons why it’s impossible not to love N’Golo Kanté

Virgil van Dijk

In November, Van Dijk scored a late equaliser to earn the Netherlands a 2-2 draw against Germany which sealed their place in the Nations League Finals.

However, rather than celebrate with his team-mates after the game, Van Dijk instead made a beeline for referee Ovidiu Hategan, who was visibly emotional after blowing the final whistle.

“The ref had just lost his mother,” Van Dijk told Fox Sports. “He broke down with tears in his eyes. I told him to stay strong and that he had refereed well. It’s a small thing, but maybe it helps him.”

Gareth Southgate

Southgate knows what it feels like to miss a crucial penalty. So when Colombia’s Mateus Uribe broke down after handing England the chance to finally win a shootout, Southgate was immediately on the scene.

And a nation fell even more in love.

Andrew Robertson

In March, Robertson learned that seven-year-old Alfie Radford had donated his pocket money to a foodbank on his way to watch Liverpool play Porto in the Champions League.

The left-back wrote the young Reds fan a personal letter and sent a signed, match-worn shirt of Roberto Firmino’s, writing: “Let’s be honest Alfie – no one wants the left back’s shirt.”

“Let me tell you now, that is brilliant from you and sets an example to the rest of us that showing a little care and thought for others is really important,” Robertson wrote of Alfie’s gesture.

Sadio Mané

In September, Mané scored the opening goal in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Leicester. But instead of going out to celebrate the win, he went to a Liverpool mosque to pray.

After chatting to a friend who was responsible for cleaning the mosque, Mané offered to help out, donning rubber gloves and putting in the hard graft.

Video footage of the incident quickly appeared online — much to Mané’s embarrassment.

“Sadio requested that no video was sent out,” the mosque’s imam explained. “He wanted to remain discreet and wasn’t doing it for publicity.”

James McClean

McClean is not exactly the neutral’s favourite, but he is known to be extremely kind and generous.

He has previously donated money to, among other things, help pay the funeral costs of a young boy, towards surgery for a Derry teenager and for a hand bike for a young girl with Spina Bifida.

And in December McClean paid for six homeless people in Derry to stay in a hotel for a number of nights, with their food already paid for.

Niall McGinn

In September, Cameron Dalgarno’s mother posted on Twitter that the seven-year-old wanted to stop playing football because he was being bullied.

The youngster soon received hundreds of heartwarming messages from fellow Aberdeen fans, but it was one from Niall McGinn that had the biggest impact – and the Dons forward didn’t stop there, arranging for Cameron to be a mascot for their game against Motherwell.

Mrs Dalgarno told The Press and Journal: “It was the support from the Aberdeen fans that helped change his mind, and then to have one of the players reply was even more special.

“Saturday was just an extra boost for him, his dream is to be an Aberdeen player, so it was like a dream come true.

“It was fantastic for Niall to get involved. He’s one of the players Cameron has idolised and he wants to play in his position.

“There’s so many young kids out there that worship footballers, so it means so much when they do things like this.”

Kylian Mbappé

England players have been donating their international fees to charity since 2007, but there is no such agreement in place for France players to do the same.

Mbappé, however, does not believe he should be paid for representing his country and decided ahead of the World Cup that he would donate all of his fees and bonuses for competing at the tournament.

He went on to play a starring role as France won it, of course, leading to charitable donations of around £400,000. Still only 20 but already a wonderful footballer and wonderful man.


More from Planet Football

Michael Carrick is doing some amazing charity work – thanks to this woman

Can you name the first all-foreign Premier League starting XI?

11 underdogs who overcame adversity to become professional footballers

17 ex-footballers with normal jobs: Gabbiadini, Dicks, Monkou, Albert…