Benoît Assou-Ekotto had a rough Tuesday night at the Stade de Suisse where he was substituted within 30 minutes of play in a Champions League play-off *game between Tottenham Hotspur (England) and Young Boys Bernes (Switzerland). The Cameroonian wasn’t at his best but fans could at least find a place in the hearts for a multi-million footballer who is willing to donate to the less fortunate, as reported byPeter Dominiczak in the London Evening Standard.
**Today Tottenham Hotspur star Benoît Assou-Ekotto said he was moved to donate to the Dispossessed Fund after picking up a copy of the Evening Standard on the Underground and reading about the “shocking” plight of the capital’s poorest people.
The Cameroon international, who was born in Arras in the north of France, is making a significant donation to the Standard’s campaign after reading about the practice of interring bodies in communal paupers’ graves.
Speaking near his home in Canary Wharf, the Tottenham left-back hailed the £1 million fund as doing “something very special for London” and called for more to be done to help the capital’s poor. He said: “I’m proud to support the Standard’s Dispossessed campaign. It is doing something very special for London. When I picked up the newspaper and read about the kind of poverty still going on in this city, it was shocking.
“The campaign showed how some people are living in London. It was a big surprise. You don’t expect that in a city with so much. It made me so happy that Londoners want to do something about it.”
Despite his millions and a fleet of performance cars, the 26-year-old has shunned aspects of the typical Premier League footballer’s lifestyle since arriving at Tottenham in 2006.
He takes the Tube everywhere he goes in central London and is unlikely to be spotted stumbling out of a nightspot at 3am. “I love London and consider myself to be a Londoner. I take the Tube. It allows me to feel like a normal person,” he said. “I’ve always got my Oyster card with me. I live an anti-football life. I want to live like a normal person. My mother didn’t teach me to live like a star. I know how difficult it is to make money.
“It’s strange to walk around the city and see people sleeping in the streets. You shouldn’t be able to see something like that and then just go home and carry on with your life as normal. You have to do something about it.”
Assou-Ekotto’s father, David, moved to France from Cameroon as a 16-year-old boy. Although he was born in France and has a French mother, Assou-Ekotto has always considered himself to be from Cameroon and played for the national team at the World Cup. He said his background has made him acutely aware of just how important it is to help those in need.
“I’m a footballer and I earn a lot of money, but when I go back to Cameroon I see the real problems that people are facing. It made me re-evaluate my life. The Dispossessed has shown that the same type of problems still exist in London. In 2010, everybody in London should be able to live a normal life. Everybody should have a roof over their head and should be able to eat every day. It’s not happening here and that is wrong.”
Assou-Ekotto said he was astonished by the “community spirit” of Londoners who donated to the fund. “London has a very special place in my heart. When I give up football, I want to stay here,” he said. “What is most important about the campaign is the feeling of Londoners coming together to help people. I’ve never known anything like the Dispossessed happening in France. Londoners care a lot about their city and the people in it.”
Assou-Ekotto called on Londoners to continue to support the campaign. He said: “It’s important for the whole of London to support the Dispossessed. In a city that has so much, it is good that we can do something to help people with so little.”
*By the way, the game between Spurs and Young Boys finished on a 3-2 scoreline. Two Cameroonian scored in the game: Bienvenue Tsama for the Swiss team and Sebastien Bassong for the English outfit.
**This original title of this piece is:The Dispossessed: Spurs star Benoît Assou-Ekotto proud to help ease plight of poor