Raise Up Academy in Chemnitz – Basketball as intermediary

Malte Ziegenhagen has been a regular player with the NINERS for years, he was MVP of the Barmer Bundesliga in 2019 and is a guarantor for quality in Chemnitz’s basketball. But besides he is very much involved in the city organizing a basketball camp to encourage future generations. Time for a chat about the Academy, Sonnenberg as a neighborhood and the current situation in Chemnitz.

Could you please introduce yourself to the Magazine?

Malte Ziegenhagen: My name is Malte and I am a player for the Niners here in Chemnitz. I am 28 years old and I am from Berlin originally. I live in Chemnitz for four years now and it is almost my fifth year. I am hanging out here in Chemnitz, working at Staffbase an international Company besides of Basketball and I am just trying to move things, you know, and help kids.

Ok that’s great. And how did you come up with the idea to create this project?

Malte Ziegenhagen: You know I’ve been a Globetrotter in Basketball, I’ve been always travelling around, I’ve lived in America, and you know the Basketball culture in America is really really good and I was at some camps over there and then I saw that there is definitely demand here in Chemnitz. And my friend – this guy over there, Christoph – he has a camp in Switzerland and when I met him I also was at a couple of camps in Switzerland and then I thought: ok let’s do one in Chemnitz. So I did it in 2018 the first time and now this is the third camp.

Picture: Les Williams

That’s great to hear because just as you said in America people use these projects to take the kids out of the street.

Malte Ziegenhagen: Exactly man.

So that is why, when you chose Sonnenberg, I was so impressed, because I know the community and as there is a lot of negative things like alcohol and drugs and stuff, so with this kind of projects I hope …

Malte Ziegenhagen: … this would change.

Exactly. So that the kids make use of their talents. I am so impressed. The second question is, can you please briefly explain the structure of the camp and what you are offering here?

Malte Ziegenhagen: So, what you said is really important you know, because that’s why I wanted it to take place at Sonnenberg because that’s an area in Chemnitz where people are very afraid of, and people have a bad image of in Chemnitz, and I think we have to help the kids and also the people that live there to recognise that it is actually a good place.

And the structure of the camp is basically: we do it now for the winter and in summer we also have camps of almost 60 kids. We have like almost roughly 10 coaches and what we try to do is to create a brand for kids, so they can be proud of something. Because my feeling was in 2018 in Chemnitz people really were not happy with what happened, and Chemnitz was like a bad place, so now I kind of want to bring light back. A Change of perspective.

That’s great, that’s really great. You already addressed the topic a little bit: I would like to know what kind of changes you observed from the first camp up until now?

Malte Ziegenhagen: I really must say the change the move to Sonnenberg just started this year. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in the beginning, because in the beginning I was just a guy with an idea and I just did it, but now the city recognises this. But I must admit in the first camp we had only 30 kids, now we have 60 kids and even people from the region coming to our place. And it is about the values we have “to grow together” that is what we kind of want to teach the kids.

Another aspect I really want to take is also like the coaches you know the guys that we have here – they really want to give to the community and I feel like that we just have good people here and very diverse, too. And another part of the structure that I did not mention is that we want to do not only sports but also culture with the children. So yesterday we went to the AJZ, which is a place that is very famous here in Chemnitz. But some people think it is a bad place. But the kids had a really good time. And that’s what I kind of want to do, you know, always come to the gym, but use Basketball as a tool.

Picture: Les Williams

And what do you think – can the project influence the kids positively beyond the time of the camp?

Malte Ziegenhagen: I think just the diversity can change their perspective on people, because you know we have a problem with right wing people and all that stuff and I want them to get that feeling that it doesn’t matter what skin, what colour, where you are from – it doesn’t matter human beings are human beings and obviously there are cultural differences with different perspectives, but that does not mean that you have to hate someone or something.

When they come here they see people with different backgrounds, with different colour and its ok, you know, it doesn’t matter and I hope that they go home and they confront their parents with that … maybe take it back to the community.

Can families with low income participate?

Malte Ziegenhagen: Yes. So this year we had some families with some issues with paying and we are very fortunate, because there is a Verein, that is cooperating with us, that is paying the fees for these children. This Verein we help a lot with the Niners and certain players from the Niners. They help to raise money for that Verein and they help with the paying for these kids. We had also some kids that were refugees this year and he was great man, he was just integrated. There was nothing bad and I was so happy about it, that he was part of the camp and that’s just slowly making steps towards more opening. That’s what gives me a lot of nice feelings and hope to change something – that’s a very nice thing.

The next thing I was thinking about is the language barrier – is it only children that can speak Deutsch?

Malte Ziegenhagen: No, this year we had this guy who spoke a lot of English. It’s the first time, because the last years we only spoke German. So this guy came in from Switzerland and he only spoke English and it was great, because the kids responded and tried to really understand what he was saying. We translated sometimes, but that’s kind of where we want to go – we want to go more international.

Yeah its true because such kind of sports need to be universal…

Malte Ziegenhagen: … of course man. It hasn’t been the easiest, because not all the children are on the same level, but we always try to do it. So they would learn just by hearing it and sometimes we even got an English response, so that’s the right way.

Have you considered other places than the Sonnenberg?

Malte Ziegenhagen: No. I am from Berlin, you know, and there is definitely kind of similarities in Berlin like the parts of the city that where really bad – ghettos, whatever you want to call it – they are now flourishing, because they are also the places with most diversity, with most international people and you know when you have people from different places they bring always something to the table that you can benefit from. To be hones I live on the Sonnenberg and I really feel home there, like it’s Berlin and I think there are great opportunities, because there are so many vacant spaces and you can use those spaces to do something good. That’s why I chose Sonnenberg –  here I have theses spaces.

Picture: Les Williams

Cool and do you think Basketball can help people to be more open minded? Like the mixed culture and all that?

Malte Ziegenhagen: Oh hell yeah, totally. I think Basketball is the greatest thing that happened to the city, because soccer unfortunately gave very bad publicity and I think the city needs something to take their hope from. Basketball is great culture.

What is your impression of the last four years you have spent in Chemnitz?

Malte Ziegenhagen: Honestly it is my home right now. When I came here the first year, I didn’t like it too much, but then the second or third year I really appreciated the city a lot and they appreciate me too. I can feel that I am appreciated here and the team really develops a lot and its just awesome to be part of a process that develops positively. Besides I am really hoping that Sonnenberg is flourishing more the next coming years and I believe in it.

Yeah I hope so too, because I have my own perspective of provoking impulses by writing stories and all that. We have been trough so many situations that have not been good for foreigners, and I believe it’s the mindset of the people – and it is a generation thing. We should not stop passing on a positive message from child to child. I am therefore very happy that your project is making such a big contribution.

Malte Ziegenhagen: Thank you man.

Anyway, it’s a really nice day meeting you and I wish you and the whole team of the Niners success in the tournament.

Our author and Malte Ziegenhagen. Picture: Jennifer Zieger

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