“I may all the time return to college”

Understand the world in which he lives and play a role in it, no matter how small. This is the credo of Christian Burgess, an enthusiast for geopolitics, a volunteer with migrants from Calais and a professional footballer in Union Saint-Gilloise.

In the life of Christian Burgess, everything is a matter of time. Time management to be exact. This big guy with a height of 1.96 meters, used to living part of his life “at the last minute”, was gradually forced by work restrictions to better manage his organization. And especially to start their days as early as that April day, when at 6:30 he left Brussels with a car full of equipment and amenities. Objective: to get to Calais two hours later and attend a large sorting charity Care4Calais, where he volunteers. That morning, twenty to thirty volunteers gathered in the warehouse to prepare clothes, sleeping bags, and other tents that they donated and were functional. “It’s the physical part,” says Christian. There is more interaction in the afternoon. We go to various camps that surround the city, we distribute equipment, we serve coffee or tea, we offer hairdressing services, we install charging stations on the phone, then we spend time with migrants. We play football, of course, but we just talk.

The footballer rejects the clichés of a nice European who comes as a savior from a poor little refugee from the South: he wants to establish a horizontal relationship with those he meets and he wants to help maintain their dignity. “Many, sometimes very young, have experienced great trauma and need to talk to someone.” Today, Christian Burgess could go to Pas-de-Calais with his eyes closed: he goes there every two or three months. The cause lies on his heart. He has been accustomed to volunteering since his youth in London. First as a cricket coach for children, then as part of his school’s volunteer program and later at Portsmouth Football Club, which is very active in people with disabilities and the homeless. “We no longer trained during the pandemic, so I could invest a lot in cooking, food delivery or recipe for the elderly or isolated people.” The footballer acts, but he also tries to understand. Why and how political decisions lead to situations such as Calais. “It’s important to keep learning, it allows you to grow,” he says. I would like to see how the world could adopt a more modern policy and break away from extremism. Brit is also using his low popularity on Twitter to virtually play his role as a model and stand up to his 16,000 followers. “It’s not a question of influence, but rather a way of providing access to certain information and encouraging people who respect me to learn about certain topics or even take action. Sometimes friends send me a message that they are also involved in a refugee case. It’s a small influence, but I’m happy to have it. “

A story in the heart

This desire to take an interest in the world around us probably dates back to when he was 16 years old. Throughout history, Christian has inherited a module on the modern history of Russia, from the tsarist dynasty to the fall of the Soviet empire through the October Revolution. “I really liked my teacher: he created another class over lunch and after the day to teach us critical thinking. At a time when social networks are thus burdening critical thinking by spreading information, fake news, or persuading through advertising, I perceive the importance of these moments. It has never been more important to give weight to resources, and this professor taught us how to do it very soon. He is probably the one who wants to study history after high school. But not in London, because the young man prefers to run away from home.

He enrolled at the University of Birmingham, whose sports and history teaching have earned an excellent reputation. “Many of my friends have studied economics in order to work in finance and make a lot of money. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, because my orientation didn’t necessarily lead to the work of a museum teacher or curator. I chose the story because it appealed to me and it seemed important to me. From the campus where he lives, young Burgess is interested in the Middle East, the Franco-American involvement in the Indian issue in the United States, and especially in what touches modern European history. Communism and the rise of Russia are part of that. “I am politically oriented to the center left, so I wanted to know a certain history of the left, especially because it affects the news: Russia still has a huge impact on the world, I think it is important to understand it. understand Putin’s goals and his idea of ​​what Russia should look like on the map, even if I disagree.

© Anthony Dehez

After two successful years, Christian chose the topic of his dissertation: “German naval expansion and riots before the First World War.” A very specific, even hyperspecific subject. Logical when we aim to bring something new to the war of 14-18, one of the most studied periods in history. “I am very interested in the causes of the First World War, the period when nations and empires grew, when competition between states, especially in Africa, increased despite the signing of pacts. Many celebrities are interested in you because of their origins, such as William II. or Otto von Bismarck. This work fascinated me mainly because the English and German royal families have common roots.

Say something

Christian does not speak German, but the student can rely on important translations of archives that are available online at the university library to avoid a proliferating return trip to museums. A good thing for someone whose availability is drastically reduced when Middlesbrough football club offers him a professional contract. However, after working at Arsenale at the age of 7 to 12 and the following season in West Hame, the defender left the professional circuit a few years ago, as he then played on Sunday’s Bishop’s Stortford FC team. No matter, he accepts. “If I didn’t succeed in football, I could always go back to the university, where there were students aged 30 to 40. I understood that this would be the only chance of my life, I couldn’t miss it.

Christian then agrees with Middlesbrough Manager and the faculty to divide his final year of study into two years. His days are taking the devil’s impulse. He cooks in the morning for lunch after training, but also for dinner, which he eats in the library, where he often reads his notes midnight. “It remains the most organized period of my life, even though I had to give preference to football on one or the other occasion, especially when we had a working day away from home.” The British have time left to read books on history, politics and sometimes football, as in the summer of 2020, when Union Saint-Gilloise asked him to transfer. He learns about the famous past of the people of Brussels, hears about their prestigious Joseph Marien Stadium, and finally gets seduced by a friendly little club. It is also an opportunity to learn French. However, the rest is beyond comprehension: the champion in 2021 from D1B, the second national level, then the union points to the top of the D1A classification practically the whole following season. A real performance you would never have imagined possible when, at the age of 13, he left the circuit that leads to the professional world. “Without this atypical course, I could never open myself to another subject. I am very glad that I had the right to a fun and quality education when I had to suffer from this terrible pressure in the football academy, which has been on the shoulders of all children since I was a child. I tested rugby, cricket, swimming, tennis and field hockey, I was able to get the best out of a very rich youth with the opportunity to enjoy the life of a professional football player only then. “

Direct consequence or not: Burgess today refuses to follow the trend of disinfecting the footballer’s speech. Communication tested, very little for him. “We are footballers, but we have our convictions. I have the right to do what I want with my free time and express my opinion. If one day the club manager wanted to forbid me to talk about politics, I wouldn’t play there. Or I would try to change things from the inside: “Do you think I’m a good football player? Well, listen to me what I have to say! ”It won’t be a waste of time.

Its the biggest risk

“Leaving university to make football my job full time.”

His mantra

“Keep things better than you found them.”

His biggest slap

“At 27, I was ashamed of the English club Portsmouth and didn’t play for weeks.”

Key dates

2001 “Creation of Wikipedia. Until I understood that this is not the most trusted source, I often used this site during my studies … Today, I sometimes support it financially.

2012 “I won my first professional contract at Middlesbrough, almost ten years after leaving the English football elite.”

2017 “I will become a vegan. It is very good for recovery after an injury and above all it is very good for the environment.

2022 “I meet my companion.”

??? “I think I’ll go back to school after my career to get a master’s degree in history.”

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