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Per Mertesacker: ‘It gives you the goose bumps ... on the pitch you see actual joy’

As a footballer who used to be assailed by anxiety before matches, Per Mertesacker felt the butterflies rising as he made his approach to a pitch with a difference. He spent much of the hour-long drive from Amman, the capital of Jordan, to Zaatari, one of the largest refugee camps on earth, wondering what to expect. Mertesacker is a deep thinker and his mind whirred. “It gives you the goose bumps,” he says. “You are a little bit depressed to go there. You have respect and know it is important for everything to sink in. When you arrive it’s tight, very hot and very dry. And then you go to a football pitch and see actual joy.” The collision of that joy with the hardship and trauma...
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