Bridging Cultures Through Football

Bridging Cultures Through Football

November 14, 2018

Goal Five Athlete and FC Bayern Munich defender, Gina Lewandowski, took some time to tell us about her experience playing in Germany and a recent trip where she used the game as a means of education for girls in Tunisia.  

How have you enjoyed playing your professional career in Germany?

Overall, I have really enjoyed my professional career here so far in Germany. I was also grateful to play one summer in the USA professional league back in 2011 with the WNY Flash. I have certainly had my highs and lows through out my career, but altogether it’s been an exciting and enlightening adventure. I have been able to see and experience a lot of things that not many people have had the chance to see and experience. Soccer has been one of the blessings in my life that has helped formed me into the person I am today.

What made you choose Germany and more specifically, FC Bayern Munich? 

In 2007, after I graduated from Lehigh University, there was unfortunately no women’s professional league in the USA. My dream was to continue to play soccer after school, so my only options at that time were to either play semi-professional in the USA or to head overseas and try out for a professional team in Europe. I have relatives near Frankfurt, Germany, and decided to try my luck there with them at first. I landed a contract with 1.FFC Frankfurt in 2007. I played there for 5 years, with one summer in the USA professional league in New York with the WNY Flash. After the 2011 season, the USA league unfortunately had folded again and my only option to continue to play the game at a professional level was to stay in Europe. After 5 years in Frankfurt, I was looking for a new experience and accepted the offer to start a new adventure here in Munich.

Tell us about your trip to Tunisia. What was the purpose?

I met the Head of the Language Department from the Goethe-Institute in Tunisia at an international gathering here in Munich. She had asked if I would have any interest in coming down to Tunis, Tunisia, to run a 3-day soccer camp and help teach the girls the German language through the sport and I was definitely interested. In total, there were 18 girls from all over Tunisia who traveled up to Tunis, the capital, for the 3 days and were able to have a cost-free German soccer and cultural experience.

The goal was to have everything in German so that the girls could learn the language as best they could, in all types of environments. At times it was a bit challenging only using German, but the girls were good sports and we had a lot of laughs as we tried to bridge the language barrier. French and English were used at times but very seldom! 

On Day 1, we did a Sightseeing Tour in the morning before lunch. We took a bus to the northern part of Tunisia, to Sidi Bou Said, just northeast of Tunis. Afterwards, we drove to Carthage and saw the archaic thermal baths as well as some other Roman ruins. In the afternoon, the girls had a German lesson in the classroom with the German teacher. In the evening, we then had our soccer training.

On Day 2, the girls went swimming in the morning in the Mediterranean Sea. After lunch, German class was in the afternoon again as well as soccer training in the evening.

On Day 3, we ran an early soccer training session in the morning, explaining all the rules of the game as well as playing some small fun soccer games. After lunch, we did a power point presentation on the rules and tactics of the game as well as some more team building exercises. In the evening, we ended the 3-day mini camp with a small tournament where the German Ambassador and Education Minister came to cheer the girls on and perform the opening whistle. 

The Goethe-Institut is a non-profit German cultural association operating worldwide with 159 institutes, promoting the study of the German language abroad and encouraging international cultural exchange and relations.

The 3-day soccer camp was part of the overall PASCH-Project in Tunisia. PASCH is an initiative launched by the Federal Foreign Office in 2008 and stands for "Schools: Partners of the Future." Its goal is to network schools around the world and promote German as a foreign language in education systems and this soccer camp was one of their projects.

Why do you get involved in efforts like this?

I love being able to give back and use my gifts to help others experience the joys that I have been blessed with. When this opportunity arose, I immediately jumped on it because it was a chance for me to teach the game as well as the German language to girls who aren’t as fortunate to play the game, as well as have such a cultural experience. Most of the girls have never played soccer before, but left with a new profound appreciation of the game and joy of meeting other girls from other parts of their country.

Tell us something not many people know about you. 

I have over 40 cousins! My mom was 1 of 11.

Last, but not least, how does it feel being the most popular Lewandowski representing FC Bayern Munich?

It feels great, naturally! (haha, joke…) well, let’s just say it feels great being the most popular female Lewandowski. ;)

Thank you to Gina for sharing her Tunisian adventure with us. It's great to see our Goal Five athletes doing everything they can to provide access to sport and education to girls around the world.

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