Top European footballer with eye on Turkish roots

By Ramazan Atam

BALIKESIR, Turkey (AA) – Despite being born and raised in Germany, Premier League footballer Ilkay Gundogan has formed a strong bond with his parents’ home town in northwest Turkey.

The Manchester City footballer has become heavily involved in supporting young players and amateur clubs in Dursunbey, a district around 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Marmara coast.

Gundogan, 26, was signed from Borussia Dortmund last summer and reportedly earns the equivalent of $150,000 a week.

He has used his wealth to provide footballs, training equipment and sportswear for clubs in the Dursunbey area — even paying an estimated 500,000 Turkish liras ($141,000) for a building to house facilities for Dursunbey Belediyespor players.

“He has been supporting our club for the past six years,” Chairman Yusuf Turhan said. “He financially contributed to the football stadium’s renewal in Dursunbey.”

As a result of his generosity, the club are naming the new stadium after Gundogan. Beside it will sit a two-storey building paid for by Gundogan that will house dressing rooms, showers, a cafeteria and sleeping accommodation for visiting teams.

According to Turhan, the help from the German international, who was born and raised in Gelsenkirchen, has already helped several young players from the district move on to the youth sides of professional clubs.

“Two of our footballers are playing for Bursaspor under 17s and four more are playing in Balikesirspor’s youth set up, thanks to Ilkay’s support,” he said.

Gundogan usually visits his parents’ home town every summer, when he tries to find the time to offer advice and tips to local players. He has also invited youngsters to the U.K. to see the facilities on offer at Manchester City, one of Europe’s richest clubs.

Ahmet Edip Ugur, the mayor of Balikesir province, said the players and training staff of the winners of this season’s provincial amateur cup will travel to England for a week as Gundogan’s guests.

“We are thankful to Ilkay for giving such big support to our young footballers,” Ugur said.