As a kid, I used to write in friends’ books that I wanted to do development work in Africa. I have always been interested in world politics. My parents brought me to places far from Denmark, such as Africa.
At a young age, I understood that we are very lucky and wealthy in Denmark and other European countries, and that people elsewhere have much less. It made me feel sad and angry that the world is so unequal.
Then we add the climate crisis on top of that: the fact that we, the wealthy countries, are responsible for the climate change that affects the most vulnerable countries the most. That feeling of unfairness drives me.
I got involved with YOPP Ghana eight years ago. I realised that as a professional footballer I could do something to help a community in Ghana. I asked my then club, Fortuna Hjorring, to support a girls’ football camp.
Since then, I have tried to do more each year. Now my current club Juventus is financially supporting a local community league, the YOPP Girls League, and education about sexual and reproductive rights.
I am trying to get young people more involved with developing their own communities. It's a good way to use football to show the girls that they have the same rights as the boys. They learn about teamwork and health, and we focus on sexual education too. It was my first project and I'm still happy to be involved in it.
Unfortunately, it's three-and-a-half years since I was last there – because of Covid and this year’s European Championship. And next year, we have the World Cup… I communicate with them online, but whenever I can, I will go there.
I would also like to live in Africa one day. I like the people, they are so strong. Though they have little, they are still happy. When I return, I feel privileged to live in countries like Denmark and Italy. But I'm so impressed by the people in Ghana, that it motivates me.
I joined Common Goal in 2018. It was a no-brainer for me to pay one percent of my salary to this charity. I think such a tax can help the world be much more equal.
Each member can choose which project they would like to support. I've supported an organisation in Zambia that is helping young people to have a safe space to play football and to get an education.
I also try to raise awareness about climate change. In 2009, when the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen, I realised how serious climate change is. It's really, really scary.
I think about it many times every day, and it influences my behaviour. Do I really need to turn on the light or can I wait? Can I use this amount of water in a smarter way?
I feel bad. I know every time I use electricity, every time I drive or fly, it affects other people. Climate change affects everybody, but some people are affected more than others.
Unfortunately, I can't change everything. I’m not proud of that. I'm flying a lot for games, which is difficult to change. But I'm aware of it and I try to reduce my own footprint.
Players from Juventus and Denmark know I care about climate change. I bring my own tap water to training instead of using new water bottles every day. I try not to eat meat, but vegan based food.
When I have an opportunity, I will bring climate change to their attention. When someone says: ‘Oh, this is warm, this is too hard’, I reply: ‘This is climate change. This will be the norm in the future’.
Team-mates ask me about it a lot and want to learn. I enjoy those talks. It's not difficult to convince them that there is a crisis, but it's difficult to change people's behaviour.
Recently I joined We Play Green, the organisation created by Morten Thorsby. I think we can help influence people’s behaviour. Like Morten, I will start wearing the number two to generate awareness.
It’s important to lead by example and show how we are reducing our footprint.
Football is also under threat from climate change. Three years ago, I had to play in 36 degrees. I couldn’t complete the match, I got too dizzy. It is getting warmer, and there will be more storms and floods: in those conditions it impossible to play, for professional players and for grassroots players as well.
Finally, I am happy to be an ambassador of Folkekirkens Nodhjælp, which is a Danish organisation that operates in various African countries. They focus on climate change too and are trying to help communities adapt to the consequences of global warming.
Every time you return to such a community, you can see the effects of climate change: they are having more difficulties to cultivate vegetables or don’t have access to water.
I like Folkekirkens Nodhjælp’s focus on climate change, and they wanted me to have a voice from the football world to speak up about this problem.
I can spend time on all these initiatives because it gives me energy. I don't want to spend that time watching TV series or drinking coffee.
It also contributes to my football career. Sometimes I feel a little bit selfish because I only focus on how I can improve as a football player. Having projects where I can help others gives me a reason to work even harder on the pitch. I know that the better I get, the bigger the platform I will have to come out with my messages and the more people I can affect.
It is my wish that the huge ship that society is, turns around and moves in a more sustainable direction.
In our series #CommunityChampion, we highlight a professional footballer’s activities that help impact the lives of other people. Discover more HERE.