Team Talk: Schlager and Laimer

Austrian national team and Common Goal teammates Xaver Schlager and Konrad Laimer catch up with Kicken ohne Grenzen

Team Talk is a series connecting Common Goal members with young people in partner organisations to spark dialogue and inspire social change.

“If I can help underprivileged children and young people gain a little courage by visiting projects and bringing them some joy, then I couldn’t imagine anything better,” says Laimer, who plays for Austria and RB Leipzig.

It was this desire that inspired him to join his Austrian teammate and VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Xaver Schlager to take the 1% pledge and link up with Kicken ohne Grenzen — an Austrian organisation using the unifying power of football to facilitate integration.

Together with eight Kicken ohne Grenzen participants and three organisation leaders, Schlager and Laimer recently met up for a team talk and discussed how to have a successful career, the importance of team play on and off the pitch, the value of giving back, and how sport can empower people to achieve their dreams. 

Kicken ohne Grenzen's Girls Cup 2021

“My first ever youth coach in Salzburg used to remind us all the time that effort is paramount to success. And throughout my career, I've found this to be very true,” explained Schlager, who has 24 caps with Austria’s national team.

“When you’re going through setbacks and facing adversity, your ability to not give up and keep working towards your goals is crucial for your development.”

As Kicken ohne Grenzen’s Co-Founder Karina Lackner explained, “Kicken ohne Grenzen uses football to create a safe space for young people with refugee backgrounds in Austria to let go of anxieties, judgement, and fears, and ultimately help them enter the educational system or find employment.”

Schlager and Laimer heard from Abdi, a young participant with Kicken ohne Grenzen’s Life Goals project — a football-based competence-training programme for pupils from middle and polytechnic schools. “Besides being lots of fun, the Kicken ohne Grenzen training sessions at my school have taught me to be more confident and take on responsibility for myself and others,” said Abdi.

Kicken ohne Grenzen Skills Academy 2021

Zahra is an Afghan immigrant and participates in Job Goals – a Kicken ohne Grenzen programme that helps young people access education and job opportunities through football. She opened up about how the football for good organisation helped ignite her passion for the game.

“I only discovered football for myself thanks to Kicken ohne Grenzen and never would have thought that it would be so much fun,” she said. “When I play, I forget everything around me and feel nothing but happiness.

“I’m also happy to have had the opportunity to undergo a training as a nursing assistant and now have an opportunity to advance in my working life.”

After exchanging stories and listening to the organisation’s participants, Laimer agrees. 

“It is truly inspiring to hear your stories and how you’re using football as a tool to educate and inspire positive change in people’s lives,” he said.

“I am grateful to be able to make a small contribution to your programmes across Austria and hope that we’ll get the chance to meet up in person one day, on the other side of the pandemic.”