In November Besiktas striker Mehmet Umut Nayir was announced as a member of the Common Goal movement. His announcement came just days after he had scored the winning goal in a derby match against local rivals Galatasaray.
Common Goal caught up with Umut to find out what that week was like and to learn more about his decision to pledge 1% of his salary to football for good.
You were announced as a Common Goal member a few days after scoring the winner in the derby. What was that week like for you?
Scoring the winner was one of the most unforgettable days of my football career. Football is a passion in our country and derbies are the most important days for our fans and also for us. Scoring a goal in that game and winning against Galatasaray with this goal was an excellent feeling. This goal gives me more responsibility to train harder and harder because then you have more expectations.
And in this week, I was announced as a Common Goal member, it made me feel honoured to be a part of such a great international organization. It had a good reflection in the Turkish press and it made me proud of myself — scoring in the derby as a player and scoring in the world as a human in the same week.
When did you know you wanted to be a football player?
Football has always been a part of my life. But it was during my school years that I started to dream of being a professional. I had moved to capital city of Turkey, Ankara, and started to play for Ankaragücü Football Team at youth level. In those days, I said to myself ‘Yes I can be a professional football player’.
When did you realise the power that football has to change the world?
I have played in different teams and in different cities around my country. What I have always seen is that people love football and not just when it comes to supporting their team. They live with football. Sometimes just kicking the ball makes them happy and helps them to forget their all problems. Just with small actions, we can people’s lives in a positive way.
Why did you decide to join Common Goal?
I believe that our game has the power to change the world and Common Goal as an organization is one of the best choices for me to help achieve that goal and to give attention to world problems like education, health, gender equality and youth unemployment.
Why have you chosen to team up with Palestine Sports for Life?
The main reason that project appeals to me is the promotion of equality, peace and gender equality. I am also studying law at university. For me and from my lessons that I have had so far, I can see that all the world has common problems in different parts. Those three areas are the top ones for me. Palestine Sports for Life project is touching the lives of young people and it’s a pleasure to team up with them.
Who are your footballing heroes and why?
Ronaldo (el fenomeno) and Patrick Kluivert were my first heroes that I remember. Then Zlatan Ibrahimovic also became a hero of mine later. Their football characters and motivations on the field are inspiring for me.
Apart from moments on the pitch, how would you like to be remembered once your career is over?
Good question. As a professional player, many children, young people are following us. When we score, our fans are happy or sometimes, if we miss, they get angry at us. Those are the routine things in our game but, after my career is over, the only thing that you can have is your achievements in the game and what you did as a human. Achievements can be written in books or you can find them by googling. Everybody can learn what I did as a player, but the important thing is what I did as a human while playing football.
Why do you think it is important for footballers to give something back to society?
The fans love us with unrequited feelings. From all over the world, look at the children, young people, old people from the disadvantaged regions — football is one of the things that makes them happy and when the matches are on, they can forget their problems. We get such positive feelings from football fans so we have to give them the same feelings back and show them that they are as important for us as we are to them.
What message would you send to other players who are thinking about joining the movement?
Come and join, altogether, we are more powerful and can change the world in a positive way. We can do it together.