DESPITE PLAYING football at the highest level with Chelsea, Antonio Rudiger never forgets it’s his position to be a role model for kids growing up facing the same challenges that he did.

This is because the 28-year-old German knows how it feels to be abused for your physical appearance as he once was also.

But the centre-back used the abuse he suffered as fuel to strengthen his character, and now believes he has no option but to support the youngsters who are going through the same thing.

Rudiger explained how he felt to Hackney Wick FC owner and entrepreneur Bobby Kasanga about the importance of sharing his strength with the youths who feel marginalised, during their interview with Nike.

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He said: “For all those up coming youngsters, you have to be a role model for them.

“And I know my role and I have to try to do my best and be strong for them and support where I can.”

But the Champions League winning defender wasn’t born with the thick skin he has today, he acquired it from a young age when experiencing racism in Germany when he began his professional career with Stuttgart in 2011, and then also in Italy when playing for Roma in 2016 to 2017.

He added: “From a young age I experienced racism, that made me stronger, so that told me people see me different.

“I’ve experienced this my whole career, from when I turned professional, In Italy, I experienced racism. But that just made me stronger.”

And even recently Rudiger’s had to deal with racism while at Chelsea, and he claims he was racially abused after a match against rivals Tottenham in 2020 but football’s authorities threw the case out as they allege their wasn’t enough evidence.

The issue of racism is one that Rudiger feels passionately about and in May he wrote a story in The Players Tribune called ‘This Article Will Not Solve Racism in Football‘ on the topic.

In the piece the German international spoke about his run-ins with racism and explored potential ways to tackle it in football.

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