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World Soccer: You’ve played in three of Europe’s biggest leagues – how do they compare?

Kevin-Prince Boateng: That’s difficult to say. Germany have made a big step up in everything and they are getting very big in the world. Italy, of course, have all these traditional clubs, and what’s important in Italy is that we have to reach the big games, like the Final and the semi-finals of the Champions League. We are always close, but the last step is missing.

England is about pace; how you are physically. There are some players who don’t have the best technical ability but they are quick and very strong. England is a very quick game, it goes up and down very quickly. It’s different in Italy. In Italy it’s more waiting for a mistake. In Italy you can wait 70 minutes for a team to make one mistake and then you punish them.

In England it’s all about going forwards to try and force the mistake.

How long does it take you to pick up a new language?

The first year in Italy I could understand, in the second year I started to speak and now it’s almost perfect. It took me maybe one-and-a-half years to be able to have a conversation. English was much quicker. I learnt in school and I spoke to my dad in English. It was much easier for me.

What was it like to sign for Milan?

I knew it was a big club, but the pressure, I think, is something you only feel when you are part of it, when you are playing with the team, when you are playing at the San Siro. It was something that was completely different, so the first six months was a big change.

People expect a lot here. They give you less chance to make mistakes because there has been a great history. They always compare the new players with the older players. It’s not easy, but if you do good there is a positive atmosphere that comes from the supporters which
I’ve never felt in my life before.

It must have been hard to go out in the first knockout stage of the Champions League this season after beating Barcelona in the first leg?

They are the best team in the world. For anyone to play against them it’s difficult. They have players of such individual quality. It’s a very strong team. We beat them 2-0 in Milan, which people thought was unbelievable, and I think we played a perfect match. There you could see that even the best team in the world have their weaknesses; then at theirs it’s totally different because they have 90,000 behind them. And then they have the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.

What is the most important thing about football for you?

People come to the stadium to see a good game, but especially to see entertainment. They want to see some things that they don’t see when they are at work or when they are at home. They want to see something different and I think my job, and the job of every footballer, is to entertain people. It has to be effective, but it has to look good also.

Have we forgotten that football is entertainment?

Yes, of course, because there is so much money going around. People maybe take the pressure too much and they forget that it’s really an entertainment. They forget why we play this sport. We play football because we love it. This we
should not forget.

What was it like for you to play against your brother, Jerome Boateng, for Ghana against Germany at the 2010 World Cup?

I played against him once before in the Bundesliga, but, of course, when you play in the World Cup against your own brother it’s a totally different thing.

Was it strange playing against the country in which you were born?

Yeah, of course it’s strange. I played in all the youth teams for Germany. I always wanted to be a part of the German team. I always wanted to play for the national team. I’ve always felt German. I was born there and lived there for 20 years and then I left to go to England. I always had a German passport. Of course I knew my roots from Africa, but I always felt I was from Germany. I even have all the attributes of a German: I’m always on time, I’m very organised, even my wardrobe has to be very tidy!

You’ve now retired from international football. Is there any chance that you might change your mind?

That’s something I cannot answer right now. A lot of people are asking me and I really do not have an answer. I will see in time what is going to happen.

What did it mean to be made a UN ambassador for anti-racism in March?

I’m very proud of this honour. To be a part of the task force, to give them my thinking and to help them fight racism…it’s a big responsibility but I’m ready to take it.

Has racism resurfaced or has it always been there?

I think it was there before but I always tried to ignore it. Honestly though, I never heard any racism when I played in England. When I played in Germany I heard it sometimes, but I think now, yes, it’s coming back. I think UEFA and FIFA are doing good by giving all the sanctions and fines and making them play games without supporters.

You walked off the pitch in January after being abused during Milan’s friendly against Pro Patria. Would you advise others to do the same?

I don’t think it’s the right thing to walk off the pitch. I did it out of emotion, anger, sadness. I think refs should be stronger. They have to make the decision, not the players. We get paid to play football. I made a big example, albeit in a friendly game, but if it was a big game I would do it again. Let’s hope that won’t happen.

Interview by David Fearnhead

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