Juventus and France midfielder Paul Pogba has spoken out against police violence and called for justice for the family of slain 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera.
A police officer shot the teenager during a traffic stop in the suburbs of Paris on June 27. The killing sparked riots and civil unrest across France during the summer.
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“I don’t want France to blow. I don’t want to have to see all the people breaking neighbours’ cars, shops and stuff like that because that doesn’t help. But what would help is justice,” Pogba told Al Jazeera’s Iman Amrani.
“I don’t think you are allowed to shoot someone that is unarmed, shoot him in the heart because he doesn’t have a driving licence and because he drove off. … And the policeman just stopped working for the police station that he’s from and that’s it? This is not right,” he said.
“The people that are responsible have to also help this poor mother, who is alone now.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Generation Sport, the World Cup winner also discussed growing up in the Parisian suburbs, being held at gunpoint in an extortion attempt, mental health, the pressures of being an elite athlete, racism and faith.
“Football is very beautiful, but it’s cruel. People can forget you. You can do something great – the next day, you’re nobody,” he said.
He speaks about mental health, his faith, police violence in France, and much, much more.
— Generation Change (@AJEGenChange) September 10, 2023
Pogba started his professional career at Manchester United before rising to stardom with Juventus. He played a pivotal role in a team that won four Italian titles and earned a nomination for the Ballon d’Or. His transfer back to Manchester in 2016 made him the world’s most expensive player at the time, and two years later, he scored in the World Cup final for France.
Pogba is now at a definitive point in his career after being plagued by injuries since arriving back in Turin last season for his second spell at Juventus. He’s faced abuse and criticism from some in the media for everything from his appearance to his salary. In this season at Juventus, he’s out to prove people wrong.
“I want to make them eat their words. … I want to show them I’m not weak. They can talk bad about me. I will never give up,” he said.
During his period on the sidelines in 2022, a gang tried to extort Pogba for millions in a dispute that allegedly involved a member of his family and old friends. A French prosecutor has opened an investigation. Pogba told Generation Sport about how sometimes he wishes he weren’t wealthy.
“Money changes people. … It can break up a family. It can create a war,” he said. “Sometimes I was just by myself thinking, ‘I don’t want to have money anymore. I just don’t want to play anymore. I just want to be with normal people, so they will love me for me – not for the fame, not for the money.’ Sometimes it’s tough.”
Generation Sport with Paul Pogba, presented by Iman Amrani, will be broadcast on Sunday, September 10, on Al Jazeera English.