“What does it take to make a single hamburger?” asks Mathieu Flamini, a former professional soccer player turned biochemical entrepreneur. The surprising answer is 2,000 liters of water. Flamini expresses his disbelief, his passion and energy reminiscent of his days on the field playing for Marseille, Arsenal, and Milan. He now presents his ideas for a sustainable life.
Flamini, who eats once a day, sips hot water in a Soho vegan cafe as he espouses the benefits of an environmentally friendly lifestyle. “Climate and health are related,” he says. Turning 40 next month, he last played top-level football for Getafe in 2019 but still talks and looks like an athlete.
He is a member of GFBiochemicals and plays a significant role in promoting sustainable substitutes for oil-based substances. GFBiochemicals specializes in producing levulinic acid, which can potentially be used as a precursor for biofuels. Flamini was one of the early founders of this business in 2008, shortly after he joined Milan. The company has since partnered with multinational corporations in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by switching to renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.
There is still a long journey ahead to reach globally accepted levels of carbon safety. An individual expressed that the issue of climate change is being disregarded. They pointed out that in countries like India and China, outdoor physical activity is no longer possible due to the hazardous air quality. Is this the path we want to take?
“Plastic is present throughout the ocean, and its impact is far-reaching. Even for those who may not prioritize environmental concerns, it’s important to note that babies are being born with microplastics in their organs. This issue cannot be overlooked.”
He is convinced that football has the potential to help prevent the environmental disasters that endanger our planet. Football? The game associated with private jets, luxury cars, long-distance travel for tournaments, and clubs funded by oil money? The same sport where Fifa president Gianni Infantino has joined forces with Saudi Arabia and where the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, is planning to sponsor the governing body for $100 million annually?
Flamini is promoting Green Football Weekend, a project taking place this weekend where Sky Sports, BBC, and TNT are participating by changing their usual yellow colors to green. This event aims to raise awareness about the positive impact of vegetarianism on the environment by involving schools in spreading the message at the grassroots level.
Supporters have the option to obtain a recipe book containing a delicious cauliflower, potato, and spinach curry recipe from Raheem Sterling. According to the Observer, this dish is highly recommended. The main message is that incorporating more vegetarian meals into one’s diet can help combat the negative environmental impact of mass-produced meat, although it does not have to be the only dietary choice.
The approach is to make small adjustments that will lead to significant progress. Flamini emphasizes the importance of empowering individuals when addressing climate change. It can be overwhelming to be told to save the world, leaving individuals feeling powerless. Instead, it’s important to break it down and show how pollution and plastics directly affect them, even in simple daily tasks such as using shampoo and shower gel made from fossil fuels. By having many individuals make changes, the impact can be multiplied and have a large effect.
The goal of the campaign is to reduce the extreme divisions surrounding climate change, particularly evident in the UK with topics like London’s ultra-low emission zone, low-traffic neighbourhoods, and Labour’s fluctuating commitment of £28bn towards green investments. By shifting the focus to football, the heated debates are toned down. However, even the UK’s national sport has been impacted by climate change, with flooding causing disruptions in lower division schedules this winter.
Flamini states that our game is being impacted, but we are not pointing fingers at anyone. We are bringing out the table and attempting to find understanding. Football and sport are one of the few remaining things that can bring people together, regardless of their wealth or background. It is important for football to take a stand against climate change. What can be done? One solution is offsetting carbon, but it should be considered the bare minimum.
In the upcoming years, there will be men’s World Cups held in North America in 2026, across three continents in 2030, and in Saudi Arabia in 2034. As a member of the environmental committee for the Paris 2024 Olympics, Flamini has several suggestions for the organizers. These include sourcing food locally, providing vegetarian options for athletes and fans, avoiding the use of plastics, and using products made from sustainable materials instead of fossil fuels. The goal is to incorporate these solutions into the planning process and make it a continuous effort.
He stopped following a pescetarian diet after his monthly blood tests indicated high levels of mercury, which was brought to his attention by Arsenal’s doctor, Gary O’Driscoll. Growing up in Marseille and being an avid diver had already made him aware of the pollution in the Mediterranean. He also confesses to owning and driving a sports car that was part of the group of Ferraris at the Milanello training ground.
Imagine a young individual who was raised in a challenging environment and often went without food. Now, picture this same individual as a wealthy athlete, living out their dream of performing in front of large crowds. With a sports car as their inspiration, it would be hard to discourage them from achieving their dream.
The soccer player will most likely own a sports car, but he also has the option to pursue other activities, such as adopting a vegan lifestyle, reducing his carbon footprint, or using his platform to raise awareness. Perhaps in the future, he will consider purchasing an electric car.
Flamini, a former frequent flier on private jets, now relies on the Eurostar for his busy business travels between London and Paris. He believes that advocating for the environment can sometimes make people appear hypocritical. However, he also acknowledges the practicality of air travel for those with family in distant locations, but encourages individuals to choose environmentally friendly options when possible.
If his strategy for influencing opinions in the football and corporate world is mainly focused on compromise and profitability, he still has a deep respect for the bold activism of individuals like Greta Thunberg. He finds it inspiring that at a young age, instead of simply playing sports, she is spreading a message of hope. In his eyes, these young people are the future consumers and he urges corporations and the football industry to listen and make changes.