13 Febrero 2017 18:10
Kevin-Prince Boateng has shown a more mature side of himself than ever before. At 29 years of age, the former Milan and Spurs player seems to have found a new sense of calm at Las Palmas. In an interview for The Guardian, Boateng has shared a number of previously untold anecdotes, opened up about the racism he's suffered, and expressed regret at some of the more problematic episodes of his career.
One of the highlights of the interview is the story of Boateng's meeting with Nelson Mandela at the World Cup in South Africa. 'There were three people I always wanted to meet: Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela. I only met one', he says.
'Mandela was in prison for 27 years just because he stood up for his rights, and he sits there and has no anger inside... he makes you feel calm,' says Boateng of his hero. 'Luckily, he broke the ice, because you just stand there. We go into the room... he shook my hand, pulled me towards him and said: "My daughter wants to marry you." I said: "Sorry I already have a girlfriend." He said: "No, no but I have others, more beautiful." Everyone was laughing,' Boateng recalls.
The Ghanian also spoke about the speech he gave four years ago at the United Nations in Geneva about racism in football. 'It was unbelievable to get the chance to say what I feel, what I'd seen, what I'd experienced in my life. But I was there for a very, very negative thing, so I was torn. It was difficult to go and speak,' he admits.
Boateng had been united to the UN after he walked off during a friendly between Milan and Pro Patria in which he, along with three other players, were racially abused from the stands. Boateng says that the situation hasn't really changed.
'Speaking to the UN, you reach the whole world, but it's one day; the next it's forgotten. We had lots of ideas but it didn't change nothing. Just saying "no" to racism on a commercial doesn't do it... Of course you get big players like Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo because they have the visibility but what did they do against racism? It's funny – the only player to give a speech at the UN and they take me out.'
Boateng also recounted his upbringing in Wedding, a 'rough' area of Berlin, in the 1990s. 'There, the rules were "if you don't die, I die". We didn't have much money but that was my life. I didn't know better so it was OK,' says Boateng.
Of his time at Tottenham he pulls no punches. Around one year after he began playing for the club he was looking in the mirror when the realisation hit him. 'I looked old,' Boateng recalls. He was just 20 at the time. 'Every night I was out until six. I was like 95 kilos, swollen from the drinking and bad food. I said: "This can't be me, I don't want to be that guy." I called my friends and together we cleaned out my fridge. I didn't drink. I didn't go out. I started cooking; I wanted to eat healthily.'
There was a reason behind his downward spiral. 'Martin Jol told me he didn't want me after a month. So, it became me against the world. "You don't want me? I'll enjoy life." Six days a week nightclubbing, drinking for almost a year. But I was only 20. You don't think things are going wrong.'
But it wasn't just his body that he was putting through the wringer: he was also spending money like there was no tomorrow. 'I was spending serious amounts: nightclubs, clothes, cars. Three in one day. You try to buy happiness. I couldn't play football so I buy a Lamborghini... After that you don't even use it. Who drives around Loughton in a Lamborghini? I still have a picture: three cars, big house, I'm standing there like I'm 50 Cent. I look at it sometimes and say: "Look how stupid you were." But that made me who I am and I can look back and see it. I've learned. I grew up. I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and thought: "No, that's not me, I don't want to be that. I'm a footballer."'
Finally, Boateng wanted to give some advice to up-and-coming young players to help them avoid squandering their talent as he did. 'I've given them examples of things I did really wrong. I made mistakes in my life. I'm OK with that now, but I don't want them to do the same stupid things that leave a mark forever: "Bad boy", "drinker", "party guy". I don't want them to waste their talent.'