When Jérôme comes to Paris

We photographed Jérôme in the latest collaboration of Nikelabs’ summer of sport series

In person, Boateng is powerful, composed, ironic and much more polite than the average egomaniacal soccer star. Not surprisingly, considering how elegant a player this tough tackling defender is. Recall that in the entire 120 minutes of the World cup final defeat of Argentina he committed just one foul.

And that is why we wanted to catch up with Jérôme Boateng when he came to Paris for a shoot in the city’s swankiest new hotel, The Peninsula Paris, built by Chinese investors by the way. For a shoot where the Bayern Munich star wears every footballer’s favorite new collection — Nikelab × Olivier Rousteing. Who better to chew over the coming games and today’s Europe than a man whose own upbringing is a metaphor for our times.

T-Shirt with gold Swoosh across the chest by Nikelab x Olivier Rousteing.

SEPP: Let’s start from the beginning. You were born in Berlin.
Jérôme Boateng: Yes.

SEPP: Was the Berlin Wall still standing? What was it like growing up in Berlin? Were you conscious about it?
JB: It was very interesting. I had German friends of course, but also lot of friends who had African, Turkish or Arabian roots. In
my area, we always played football together on a pitch. And, at the age of eight, I met my
half brothers for the first time. I traveled to the area their family lived in, which was even tougher, in Wedding.

SEPP: And where did you live?

JB: In Wilmersdorf/Charlottenburg.

SEPP: Did you know your brothers existed?
JB: Yes, we didn’t get to know each other for a long time.

SEPP: But it was friendly at the meeting?

JB: Yes, it was friendly. At the first meeting you are a little bit shy. Then we saw each other more frequently and I was often with them. Growing up in their area was harder. I used to play football with them. I was the youngest of course. And we played against all the bigger guys, which was tough. In this area you can’t say “oh my knee hurts” or whatever. You have to be strong and keep it inside. This experience was very helpful for me. We played on asphalt. When you fall down, you scrape your knee.

SEPP: But did they treat you like a spoilt bourgeois guy?
JB: No, they took me as I am.

SEPP: Do you meet your brother from time to time? He plays in Milan.
JB: Yes, we see each other.

SEPP: Do you have a good relationship?

JB: Yeah, very.

SEPP: Were you surprised when he decided not to play for Germany?
JB: No, I was on the under-21 team and it was his decision after all. But yes, I was a little bit surprised but that’s his choice. His decision. He felt like he would never have the chance to play for Germany at this moment. And he wanted to play the World cup, so he went for Ghana.

Boateng does not need a ball to show his skills. Photographed by Frederike Helwig at The Peninsula Paris.
Boateng does not need a ball to show his skills. Photographed by Frederike Helwig at The Peninsula Paris.

SEPP: You are from Berlin and went to Hamburg. Was that complicated?
JB: No, it was quite easy because the coach wanted me. Huub Stevens was a very
good coach. He gave me trust, so it was a good move for me.

SEPP: Was it difficult to play for Bayern later on, a team who doesn’t like Hamburg?
JB: Bayern doesn’t like Hamburg? No it’s St. Pauli that doesn’t like Hamburg.

(At which point photographer Freddie Helwig pops into the bedroom
where we are talking and shouts out: “I am from Hamburg and they rock!”)

SEPP: What do you think of St. Pauli?
JB: Well, we never played against St. Pauli.

SEPP: What was the Manchester city experience like?

JB: It was very important to me. But it was an unlucky season. I had two bad injuries
– my left and right knee were injured.
I had surgery. I wasn’t able to play for eight weeks twice. It was difficult to be new to a team. I was young and I didn’t play in the position I wanted. I wanted to play centrally. But they said before we let you play central, we put you on the side.

SEPP: How come, Manchester city played some great games but never became your dream?
JB: Because they have never let me play my position. I felt good but at the same time my girlfriend was pregnant in Germany with twins and I couldn’t go there. She was in the hospital for eight weeks and couldn’t move which was very difficult.

SEPP: Were you with her when she gave birth?
JB: I flew over, I was there. I couldn’t miss that!

SEPP: Are you surprised Manchester city has not grown into a bigger team? Because they spend a lot of money and have a lot of good players.
JB: But a lot of good players don’t make for
a good team. And a lot of money doesn’t make for a good team either.

Right: Mesh and lux structured knit fabrication top; left: Safari shirt with pockets, sandy mid-calf cargo trousers.
Right: Mesh and lux structured knit fabrication top; left: Safari shirt with pockets, sandy mid-calf cargo trousers.

Read full article and interview in the new SEPP issue No. 9 available now at the newsstands.