Hans Sarpei sitzt am Ufer des Rhein auf einem Stein
Der ehemalige Fußballprofi Hans Sarpei geht zum Joggen gerne an den Rhein. Foto: Marina Weigl

Hans Sarpei: “Cologne’s always up for a laugh!”

Cologne is a feeling. In our "K-Gefühl" series, we introduce prominent Cologne residents who have a special bond with the city. Today: the former professional footballer Hans Sarpei

Former professional footballer and youth coach Hans Sarpei was three when he came to Cologne from Ghana. He talks to us about his city and the places that helped make him who he is today.

What does Cologne mean to you?

For me, Cologne is home. Basically everything that makes me me! It’s open and multicultural, free and always up for a laugh. I like that. I’m the same. I like the sense of humour in Cologne.

Which part of the city do you know best?

I moved from Ghana to Cologne’s Chorweiler district when I was three. My parents were already here. I grew up in Chorweiler. Back then, it was a new neighbourhood with 1970s high-rise blocks, located in the north of Cologne.

Hans Sarpei mit langer Strickjacke und Jeans am Rheinufer
Today, Hans works as a football coach. Photo: Marina Weigl

Chorweiler used to have a reputation as an all-concrete trouble spot, especially in the 1980s and 90s. What was your experience as a child there?

I didn’t feel it was a ghetto at all. I’ve always said Chorweiler is Cologne’s New York. People need to see things in a more positive light and take a positive approach to life. There were a lot of children and we all played together. For us, things were good there. We played football, tennis, lots of different things. We hung out in front of our building, on the road and we had a lot of fun up on top of the multi-storey car park too. That’s where I first played football, by the way. My desire to show I was very good at football started at a young age. And it started up there.

I’ve always said Chorweiler is Cologne’s New York.

Hans Sarpei

How did the neighbourhood shape you?

A lot of the people living in Chorweiler were from ethnic communities and the working class. And there were drugs and crime. Many people were prejudiced towards those who lived there. But you have to remember it was all we children knew. I wanted to make something of myself. As a boy, I was small, skinny and black. It all motivated me to believe in myself and show what I was capable of.

What are your favourite places in Cologne today?

I live with my family in Weiß, in the south of Cologne, now. Of course, I don’t go out so much now I have a family. I’ve got quite a few favourite places here, actually. It always depends on what you want to do. Jogging, for instance. That’s really important for me especially because I can do it on my own, unlike playing football. I like to jog along the Rhine. Particularly because there are some gorgeous countryside views from the other side of the river. There’s a lot of green and it changes according to the season. On the way back, I jog past the Rheinauhafen complex. It’s a very popular place for a stroll. And it’s great for people-watching.

Jogging is really important for me especially because I can do it on my own, unlike playing football.

Hans Sarpei

Almost everyone in Cologne knows you. How do people react when they see you jogging? Do they stop you for a chat?

I run fast. I’m gone before anyone recognises me. (Laughs).

Hans came to Chorweiler from Ghana when he was three. Today, he lives in the south of the city. Photo: Marina Weigl

Where do you like to go when you do go out?

My favourite restaurant is Noa on Maastrichter Straße in the Belgian Quarter. You can get all sorts there – from Alsace-style Flammkuchen (tarte flambée) to steak or pasta. When it opened ten years ago, a friend of mine was working there. At the beginning, I was there every day sometimes. So I’ve tried almost everything on the menu. And it all tastes fantastic!

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