The Westminster Chaplain for Sport has urged footballers to be more like former Manchester City star Vincent Kompany.
His call comes following Kompany’s emotional return to the Etihad Stadium for his testimonial match, of which all proceeds went towards tackling homelessness in Manchester.
Mgr Vladimir Felzmann said he was a “great fan” of the Belgian international who joined Belgian club Anderlecht this summer following City’s treble-winning season in lifting the Premier League, FA Cup and the Carabao Cup trophies.
The chaplain, who also serves as the CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport and a Trustee of The Passage – which runs London’s largest voluntary sector resource centre for homeless and vulnerable people, said he was particularly impressed by the 33-year-old star’s “passion and determination” in tackling homelessness.
“As one of the hats is wear is Trustee of The Passage – the top Charity helping homeless people in London – I am a great fan of former Manchester City footballer Vincent Kompany. I am chuffed to hear of his testimonial match for his passion and determination in tackling homelessness,” Mgr Felzmann told The Catholic Universe.
“The Belgian defender has already raised more than £300,000 for Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s A Bed Every Night scheme, which so far has supported 2,003 people with 688 moving on to long-term accommodation,” he explained.
Addressing other top well-paid sport stars, Mgr Felzmann suggested that instead of gambling their money away or “wasting” it all on luxury items, they could take inspiration from Kompany and do something really worthwhile.
“If only other millionaire footballers took Vincent as their role model and, instead of gambling and wasting so much money or cars and other luxuries, they would realise that generous-care-for-the-marginalised is, as south-Africans would put it, Ubuntu; good for the recipients and good for the giver.
“As Jesus Christ taught us, and my 80 years on this planet have taught me – giving is the best way of living (Lk 6, 38). Love expressed in deeds – better than any moisturiser or plastic surgery – keeps you young,” Mgr Felzmann said.
Kompany said that despite being unable to play in his testimonial on Wednesday 11th September, due to a hamstring injury, he still enjoyed the friendly between a City side featuring a host of star names from throughout his career and a Premier League All Stars XI.
“I’m the proudest man in the world,” said Kompany, who also gave game time to his brother Francois and a number of players from Anderlecht.
“It’s been a special day. It’s been a perfect evening even though I didn’t play. I couldn’t have wished for more.”
The priority for Kompany was raising funds for his homelessness charity Tackle4MCR, which aims to eradicate rough sleeping in Manchester. It is an issue that has been close to his heart throughout his stay in the city he now considers home.
“The key thing is to raise as much funding as we can and use it to help the people who are helping those living on the streets,” he said.
The game itself finished 2-2 with City scoring in the first and last minutes through Martin Petrov and Benjani Mwaruwari. The Premier League side struck through Robbie Keane and Robin Van Persie, one of a number of former Manchester United players to feature.
Kompany said: “We are specifically dealing with homelessness in Greater Manchester. You can’t have a successful project without Manchester United involved. We have our differences – that is clear – but if we can get together for these sort of events the city is stronger.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham launched his A Bed Every Night scheme last November to provide a bed, warm welcome and personal support for anyone sleeping on the streets in the region.
Earlier this month Mr Burnham announced a £6 million funding package, which from next month will increase the number of bed spaces from 300 to 400 provided by voluntary, faith and community groups and housing providers.
Mr Burnham said: “I can’t praise Vincent Kompany enough for his legendary sporting prowess on the pitch and for his heartfelt support to end the humanitarian crisis of rough sleeping in Greater Manchester.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with him over the last year and I’ve seen first-hand how committed he is.
“I will never forget meeting up with Vincent at Supporting People In Need, a charity in Manchester that is doing outstanding work supporting homeless people.
“Just days after he scored that goal against Leicester and just before he led City to their first back-to-back Premier League title, he gave up his time to visit the charity in Ardwick.
“As well as raising awareness of the issues, Vincent’s already raised over £300,000 for A Bed Every Night. And yet he’s going above and beyond this by donating the proceeds of his testimonial to support even more people.
“Vincent knows, like we do, that in 2019, nobody should have to spend a night on the streets. We do things differently in this city. We don’t just walk on by and, while he may be from Brussels, Vincent is as Mancunian as they come and understands this better than most.
“I pay tribute to Vincent for his courage, passion and determination to help those who need it the most.”
This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:
Saturday 14th September
Liverpool v Newcastle United – 12:30pm
Brighton & Hove Albion v Burnley – 3:00pm
Manchester United v Leicester City – 3:00pm
Sheffield United v Southampton – 3:00pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace – 3:00pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea – 3:00pm
Norwich City v Manchester City – 5:30pm
Sunday 15th September
AFC Bournemouth v Everton – 2:00pm
Watford v Arsenal – 4:30pm
Monday 16th September
Aston Villa v West Ham United – 8:00pm
Picture: Manchester City Legends and Premier League All Stars XI players hold up a banner for the Tackle4MCR campaign prior to the beginning of the Vincent Kompany Testimonial at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. (Martin Rickett/PA).