Per Mertesacker says being associated with Arsenal Football Club makes him proud not only professionally but also for their humanitarian work which they do as part of the Arsenal Foundation.
Mertesacker, alongside Mesut Ozil, spent a day with 20 refugees in Islington and the Gunners have dedicated their game against Everton on Sunday to the Arsenal Foundation where every player will be contributing a day's wages to the well being of people fighting for their lives.
The German, who transferred from Werder Bremen in 2011, stressed that he is proud of the work Arsenal are doing and explained that he has been an Arsenal fan since childhood when he looked up to Tony Adams as his idol. The duo spent their time training with the refugees and listening to their harrowing tales of neglect and dereliction.
"It's really hard to imagine what happened to them. They just want to forget. You could see in their bright eyes their joy of playing football together. As professional footballers we have a responsibility. We have the power, the platform and the money to really help people," Mertesacker told The Telegraph.
"Being Arsenal makes me proud not only as a footballer on the pitch but also part of this Foundation work. Arsenal stands for tradition. I feel the class of the people here at Arsenal, good people. Arsenal have a history of doing great things for the community. Arsenal have never forgotten their roots. I stand for that as well," he added.
The 29-year-old revealed how it was a dream come true for the player when he transferred to the Emirates in 2011 and insisted that the Gunners were a part of him since he was 10. As expected, the German international had a lot of problems trying to reconcile himself to the pace of the Premier League, but insisted that it was Arsene Wenger who alleviated his fears and helped him improve as a player.
"As a defender, it's about seeing situations as early as possible, especially in England where the speed is really high, more than in Germany. I had a lot of difficulties to start with. I kept mistakes with me all the next day. I always ask myself: 'what happened?' But in every single second the Boss Arsene Wenger supported me when I suffered or made a few mistakes. He said: 'you have to cope quickly and respond to the criticism'. He trusted me," he said.
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