Later today, Arsenal footballer Mesut Özil will wed his model girlfriend Amine Gülşen in Istanbul. Ahead of their big bash, the star player announced on social media that as part of their celebrations the couple will be paying the surgery costs for 1,000 children in need via the BigShoe charity.
He also invited fans who are “willing and able” to help support “a very special project close to both of our hearts”.
Providing a link to BigShoe, Özil wrote that the charity works with German and Swiss doctors, who carry out life-changing surgeries for children in developing countries. These, he explained, can include burns, clefts and club feet, medical conditions “that developing countries struggle to treat due to lack of doctors, money and medicine”.
The World Cup winning star has been a backer of BigShoe since 2014. Founded in 2006, the German charity’s website states it is “a unique symbol for a growing worldwide network of sport fans [to] help poor children with medical operations, as well as supporting the youth participating in our education through sports program”.
The charity acknowledges it became “world famous” after Özil became a patron. It is believed the midfielder donated all of his estimated £240,000 winnings from the Brazil World Cup in 2014 to cover the costs of surgery for 23 sick children in Brazil. Since then, other notable players to have funded the charity’s work include Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger and former Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm.
A third-generation German Turk, Özil is a practising Muslim and philanthropist. Three years ago, he visited Syrian refugees in Jordan and has also supported charity My Shining Star, which makes child cancer patient’s dreams come true.