Vincent Kompany: globally engaged Citizen | South China Morning Post
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Barclays Asia Trophy 2013

The Barclays Asia Trophy was played in Hong Kong from July 24 to 27 and saw Sunderland, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and South China compete. Manchester City were the winners, beating Sunderland 1–0 in the final. The tournament was dogged by issues with Hong Kong Stadium's waterlogged pitch, which was blamed for an ankle injury sustained by Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen.

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Vincent Kompany: globally engaged Citizen

Belgian captains Manchester City but puts charity work and education on a par with the high-stakes Premier League challenge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:36pm

Her son is a millionaire who speaks five languages and spends his free time helping charities and studying; he also happens to be captain of one of the richest football clubs in the world. Jocelyne Kompany may have been Belgian, but you suspect she had a bit of the Asian "Tiger Mother" about her.

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany could have joined rivals United as a teenager, but his late mother insisted he finish his baccalaureate. While many Premier League stars seem chiefly concerned with adding the latest Louis Vuitton toiletries bag to their collection or another model-shaped notch to their bedpost, Kompany has never forgotten his roots growing up poor near Brussels' red light district.

In Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy, Kompany speaks to the Sunday Morning Post ahead of the launch for "Hong Kong Friends of SOS Children's Villages", an initiative to boost awareness of, and support for, the international charity.

Founded in Austria in 1949, it supports orphans and families at risk of separation due to war, disasters and disease, by providing family-based care in "villages" with shared facilities. They cater for 1.57 million children and adults in 133 countries, with 500 programmes in Asia caring for more than 200,000 people.

"This is a charity I've been supporting for I think over 10 years now, maybe eight years," says Kompany, 27. "A lot of charities were asking for my support, and as I always do I read up on it a bit. One of the things that they were asking me was to go to Congo to see the work they were doing. As soon as I saw the village in Rwanda and the second one in Congo, I realised those were the kinds of projects I liked to support."

Understandably it resonated: Kompany's father Pierre is a Congolese refugee. "My father didn't come all the way he did to give me chances and for me to fail," he said in a 2011 interview.

"There's a lot of organisations that do great work in Congo, but it's always where you feel the closest to, where you feel the bond," he says. "Youth is always the future of any country. Sometimes if you forget about those who are most in need you actually miss out on the opportunity of creating great human beings and SOS gives that opportunity."

Many Premier League players receive weekly bank deposits greater than what some of their fans could earn in a lifetime, but Kompany insists it is not just millionaire footballers who should feel some social responsibility.

"Not just players, big corporations, governments, anybody - and you don't need to earn a lot of money to do something for the people next to you. I didn't start doing this because I'm a football player, my family did it before and we didn't have a lot of money. I think it has to be something that is part of your education for good.

"With this organisation the best thing about it is you know all the money, every penny that you spend goes to the right projects. That was difficult, especially in the countries where they work, it's not always guaranteed."

A keen reader, in multiple languages, Kompany is as adept discussing politics as tactics, and while teammates might spend much of their ample free time honing golf swings or perusing supercar showrooms, he relaxes by cracking books for his part-time MBA at Manchester Business School. "It's more of a - let's be honest, I don't really need to do it - a personal challenge. I'm not doing it because of the grades, I'm not doing it because of the degree, I'm only doing it for personal knowledge and the personal challenge.

"Whichever work you do, people go through life having several priorities. I know my football is what got me here. The work I do for SOS or my charity work in general has always been a priority for me and then my family is a priority as well, so you set yourself different things and they just balance each other out.

"When I read or study I don't do it for the degree - if I fail it doesn't matter, but it just takes me out of this world where you're the centre of attention all the time. You just become a normal bloke when you're setting yourself those kinds of targets.

"I don't really speak about it in the press because it's not something I want pressure on. I like to have pressure on my football and the rest is just something I do to keep balance in my life."

Kompany married a lifelong Blue, Carla from Salford, in 2011 and the pair have a three-year-old daughter, Sienna. Having visited Hong Kong as a tourist three years ago, he earns brownie points for calling it one of his favourite cities in Asia - before losing them again by including Singapore.

City, of course, were not here just for charity work, and took their pre-season preparations up a notch by reaching the final of the Asia Trophy.

The City dressing room was supposedly not a happy place last season as the team failed to defend the title won in 2011-12. Manuel Pellegrini has since taken over from Roberto Mancini and Kompany is impressed.

"He's got his own vision and I think like every big manager he's got a strong vision about how the team needs to play," he says.

Pellegrini has had the team watching videos of his former club Malaga as he attempts to replicate the organisation that saw the Spanish side almost reach the Champions League semi-finals last year.

Kompany elaborates on what the Chilean has been trying to instil in Hong Kong and South Africa in recent weeks: "I think mainly you always look to keep your strong points in the team. We've had a lot of good things in our team. Our organisation and discipline has been really good.

"It's not really acknowledged a lot, but we were three years consecutively the best defence in the Premier League.

"I think what he's trying to do is add on to what we have already and just make sure that those little points that we could improve we do improve, maybe recovering the ball quicker and being more dynamic in [that]."

City have spent a reported £90 million (HK$720 million) this summer on Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is among those trying to up the pressure by suggesting that if they do not win the title it will be a failure, while Pellegrini believes he has the league's strongest squad.

Kompany joined City in August 2008, the last signing before the club were purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group, starting the petrodollar-fuelled transformation that led to a first title since 1968. He insists Pellegrini's side will relish the pressure.

"My way to [cope] is to take my mind off things by doing other stuff, keep my mind healthy. For the club and everyone involved I think it's been a process that we've been used to.

"The first time that we had a [record signing] was Robinho five years ago and the pressure has only been increasing. We've had a lot of big players. We know how to deal with it, I think our club looks more stable now.

"We've always improved, we've sometimes had a good season, sometimes a little bad season, but you can't forget where we've come from.

"When you finish second and everyone's disappointed, well I'm saying that's a good thing because a few years ago people might have been happy with that."

Kompany believes six clubs will challenge for the title - presumably City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham - but says City are stronger than ever.

"I think this squad is just as strong, if not stronger, than the squad that gave us the league title."

Kompany is now a club owner himself, having bought a third division side and renamed them BX Brussels, but Emirati-style world domination is not on the agenda.

"It's very socially oriented … the main reason why I started this is because where I grew up in Brussels it wasn't really an easy area to grow up in, and I thought there's so many opportunities you can give to kids through sports and in this case football.

"I don't see it as having a football club because I want my first team to go for glory - if they do then I will be happy and I prefer it with kids from the academy - but it was mainly for me to make sure I could … kind of teach them football the way I see it and give them more, expect more from them than just being football players, to focus on their education."

The new club plays its first official game today. Older sister Christel is club president, the first woman in such a position in Belgian football.

If she shares her brother's drive, the team should be in good Kompany.

 


ON RECORD

Full name: Vincent Jean Mpoy Kompany

Born: April 10, 1986, Uccle, Brussels, Belgium

Position: Centre-back, defensive midfielder

Height: 1.9m

Weight: 84kg

Senior career:

2003-06 (From youth system) Anderlecht, 73 apps

2006-08 (€10m) Hamburger SV, 29 apps

2008 - (£6m) Manchester City, 151 apps

National team:

2004 - Belgium, 55 caps

Trophies

Anderlecht

Belgian First Division: 2003-04, 2005-06

Hamburger SV

Uefa Intertoto Cup: 2007

Manchester City

Premier League: 2011-12

FA Cup: 2010-11

FA Community Shield: 2012

Awards:

Belgian Golden Shoe (best player of the year) - 2004

Belgian Ebony Shoe (best player of African descent) - 2004, 2005

Belgian Player of the Year (Playing Abroad) - 2010

Premier League Team of the Year - 2010-11, 2011-12

Premier League Player of the Season - 2011-12

Manchester City Official Supporters' Player of the Year - 2010-11

Manchester City Players' Player of the Year - 2010-11

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