Mesut Özil is providing free meals for 1400 schoolchildren in North London this week during the half-term break. For our U.S. readers, half-term is a week-long break that occurs midway through each school term in the U.K. During the break, students who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school may not have access to food, hence Özil’s donation.
The contribution is no doubt inspired by Marcus Rashford’s larger campaign against childhood hunger in Britain, which earned him M.B.E. honors. His efforts have pushed the issue into the spotlight and the center of the national conversation across the pond. I’d rather not get into the politics of it all, but for me “let’s not have children go hungry” seems like a good cause to get behind.
Özil has done significant charity work throughout his career, both public-facing and behind-the-scenes. He has worked with BigShoe to provide operations for more than 1,000 needy children across the world, fed homeless refugees in Turkey and Syria in combination with the Red Cross, and works with Rays of Sunshine to bring happiness and hope to seriously ill children across the U.K. I’d bet there is more work that we don’t know about.
Say what you want about how he is handling his current situation at the club, he seems, at least to me, to genuinely care about the less fortunate. It’s fine to criticize him, but we should also give credit where it is due. I don’t think anybody is complaining about his charitable work, but if you’re going to bring off-the-field “negatives” into the conversation and your evaluation of him, you would do well to include the “positives” too.