When Kai Havertz first saw the images, it seemed to him like a faraway nightmare. The devastation was total. Streets disemboweled, houses tangled and torn or swallowed up by huge sinkholes, cars entombed under mud and debris or swept away. And water everywhere. Horrible, dirty, brown water; unfeeling, unstoppable.
But this was the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the west of the country, where the Chelsea forward grew up and his family still live, and it was the adjoining one, too – Rhineland-Palatinate. And this was last month.
“Just horrible,” Havertz says. “Families and people losing everything – their homes, their clothes, their pets. It was for the whole country and the whole world a disaster. I could never imagine that something like this would ever happen in Germany, with so many people dying. When you hear or I hear about things like this – for example, thunderstorms – you can only imagine them far away. But right now, it has happened to us.”
What has happened with the flooding at home has tested Havertz in a different way. You can hear it in his words and it has led to uncomfortable questions about the climate crisis, a desire for someone that describes himself as an animal and nature lover to learn more about the subject.
Like many people in England, Havertz has noticed the sudden, intense bursts of rainfall over the summer weeks and worries that something troubling could be behind it.
“I think we all feel it – that something is changing,” Havertz says. “Does something need to change for the better? Yes. We are the people, we can change it and we can help it to not get as bad as it could get. It’s very important that we all stand together and everybody who can help will help in the future.
“I’m not deep into all these topics at the moment but I want to get more involved in the coming years. Animals mean a lot to me and with animals also comes nature and the climate and so, for me, they are very important.”
Havertz is determined to use his voice to keep the spotlight on the recovery effort and to stress that, above all, it is donations that are needed. He has made one of €200,000 (£171,000) to the German Red Cross and he has designed a pair of boots in the colours of the North Rhine-Westphalia flag – green, white and red – that he will wear in Sunday’s derby at Arsenal and auction off, also for the German Red Cross. Ninety-nine other pairs will be sold to raise funds for the charity.