Monday 18 March 2019, 15:52

Young fan's passion tugs at Ozil's heartstrings

  • Mesut Ozil sends gifts to young Kenyan fan

  • Lawrence Masira wrote German star’s name on his Arsenal shirt in marker

  • Photo of the 12-year-old went viral, leading Ozil to reach out

We all know football is a global game, but sometimes we need a simple reminder to realise how far the impact of what happens on the pitch really travels.

The modern world has made that all the easier, with it taking just a single tweet for FIFA World Cup™ winner and Arsenal star Mesut Ozil to be struck by what it means to some people across the planet every time he kicks a ball.

More than 4,200 miles away from the Emirates Stadium in London, the day after his side’s derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur, a young boy named Lawrence Masira was wearing his Gunners shirt as he guided his cows through Nairobi in Kenya. Lovingly written on the back in black marker pen was Ozil’s name and number.

“My mum bought me an Arsenal jersey. While I was walking I picked up a marker pen,” the 12-year-old explained to BBC Africa. “I felt in my heart that I should write Mesut Ozil’s name on my jersey and then I can go play like him.

“Ozil’s style of play is what makes me like him. He helps his team score goals. I listen to the radio because we don’t own a TV. I listen to Arsenal’s matches.”

Having come across Masira near his home, journalist Erik Njiru shared the photo with the world in the hope it could reach the superstar No10. “I saw myself in him, like back when I was young, because we all used to do this,” Njiru said.

What happened then went far beyond his expectations. Almost 10,000 retweets saw Ozil reach out to Njiru in the hope of getting in contact with Masira. “[Ozil] was so happy to see that and he would like to see how he can help the boy.

“When he responded to that tweet, I was like: ‘wow’. It was really surprising and touching to see that Ozil could actually direct message me and ask me to go reach out to the boy.”

Masira could not believe what that photo would result in, when a hefty package direct from England landed in Kenya. “I opened the box with my mum. I found lots of jerseys and boots. Genuine boots. The day Eric brought me the boots and shirts, I felt good in my heart.”

Now when he plays football his shirt still has marker pen on it, though now it is the autograph of his idol he’s wearing proudly.

Next the youngster hopes to have a shirt with his own name on. “When I grow up I want to play for Arsenal, then I can help my mum. I want to build her a house and buy her a car.”