The first whistle started 15 years ago. Young people meet on a soccer field in Zollstock to play the first title of the Cologne street soccer league. “The actors just started,” recalls the cabaret artist Jürgen Becker, who was at the booth at the time. During their studies, everyone could be guided by the utopia of “a world where everyone can find a place”. “Here it became the soccer field.”
Becker welcomed numerous guests in the stands in Lukas Podolski’s new street football base in Mülheim. The Cologne youth welfare organization Rheinflanke is celebrating its 15th birthday with snacks, Kölsch and memories on the artificial turf of Poldi’s private soccer field in the chic converted industrial hall, where the professional combines a business idea with the social commitment of his foundation.
Give everyone a chance
The Rhine Flank and the Cologne Idol have been partners for many years, and the street foosball base will also work closely together: Sport enables uncomplicated access to young people, who then accompany men on their way through life. Not only for Becker, this is a contribution to a better world in which children and young people with poor starting conditions also get their opportunities.
In retrospect, those responsible for the Rhine flank can report on countless small and large success stories. “Of hopefuls and heroines of advancement” reports from a current book. You need the flank and pass giver, as well as good training conditions so that young people can discover and develop their talents and potential. One of the success stories is the Rhine flank itself. When the “Cologne kickt” initiative started on the football field, a full-time employee of the “Leuchtfeuer” foundation and two honorary employees were working on the new youth welfare project. Today the “Rheinflanke” is a medium-sized company with around 100 employees. Many locations – including Berlin – have been added.
Difficulties with financial security
With the experience it has gained, the formerly small Cologne initiative has developed into an expert to whom political leaders and experts at national and European level listen.
15 years of “Rheinflanke” also means 15 years of often arduous business management work to secure the financing, as the managing directors Christoph Bex and Sebastian Körber reported at the reception. State and cities are having a hard time with permanent financial security, which leads to the fact that carriers like the Rhine flank shimmy from project finance to project finance. The two trained social workers have become company managers. One of the supporters from the beginning is “we help”.
“We help” as a companion
Bex and Körber thanked the reliable companions in the stands, including “We help” chairman Hedwig Neven DuMont and managing director Karl-Heinz Goßmann. Together they cultivate “the culture of making things possible”. Some things could be “conjured up overnight”. Next year, Bex and Körber want to set up their own “Rheinflanke” foundation.