During an exclusive interview with the Haringey Independent, Tottenham Hotspur's Benoit Assou-Ekotto spoke about football, his status as a Spurs cult hero and his relationship with Andre Villas-Boas.
In this, the first of a three-part series, he talks about his recent trip to Cameroon as an ambassador for international charity Sightsavers.
He’s known to millions as Tottenham Hotspur’s eccentric left-footed full-back, but Benoit Assou-Ekotto says he would rather be remembered as someone who changed the world.
And on a charity trip to Cameroon last week, the popular Premier League star attempted to do just that.
The French Cameroonian defender recently became an ambassador for Sightsavers, which provides free treatments against river blindness in Africa and other regions around the world.
Volunteers have just given out the 250millionth vaccination against the disease, spread by a black fly that breeds in fast-flowing rivers, and Assou-Ekotto travelled to his native country to witness first-hand the work the charity carries out.
Speaking to the Haringey Independent about why he got involved in the project, the 29-year-old said: “I didn’t know about this sickness but when I heard that 102million people were at risk, I wanted to get involved.
“I want to be remembered as someone who helped people as a footballer, because I don’t change the world when I play football. I make people happy every weekend but I don’t change people’s lives in a positive way.
“I’m not perfect. I believe in God and I try to do the best as I can do in my life and when I’m dead I hope to go on the right side, not the left side, if you know what I mean.”
Assou-Ekotto, who famously described his multi-million pound profession as “just a job”, believes footballers have a duty to get involved in charity work.
He said: “I would not say footballers should do or they have to but it would be stupid not to use your notoriety to do this kind of thing. You could finish your career and say ‘I scored 35 goals’ but if you can change the lives of people too – fantastic.
“There are maybe 5,000 players in Europe so if 3,000 do something like this we can pass a good message around the world.”
Assou-Ekotto, who signed for Spurs from Lens in 2006, visited a number of people affected by the disease on his visit this week and explained how travelling back to Cameroon keeps him grounded.
He said: “My family is proud of me because I play for the national team and sometimes, without realising, your feet don’t touch the floor anymore.
“Even if you don’t see it or your friends don’t see it, you go back to Cameroon you see the reality and you’re feet come back onto the floor.
“I’m very happy to have this part of me. This Cameroonian side has helped me a lot in my life because it gives me a dose of reality.”
To view videos of Assou-Ekotto's trip and to find out more about Sightsavers, visit www.sightsavers.org/250m