The young German defender of AC Milan and member of the Under Armour team shares his deep bond between football and family, two fundamental pillars of his life

Malick Thiaw was born in Germany, in the vibrant city of Düsseldorf, but his heart encompasses many distant lands: his birthplace, and those of his parents, who passed on their love for the game. His mother, hailing from the cold lands of Finland, and his father, a goalkeeper who defended the colors of Senegal, shaped his future from his very first steps. From a young age, his talent shone on the green fields of Fortuna Düsseldorf, Bayer Leverkusen, and Borussia Mönchengladbach, before finding a home in the youth team of Schalke 04 in 2015. Here, he engraves his name on the history of professional football with an exciting debut in the Bundesliga at the tender age of just 18.

Growing up in Germany with Finnish and Senegalese Roots gave me a good mix of cultures, a balance of serenity and strength, on and off the field. It’s the same in football as in life. Sometimes, you need to be focused and sometimes you need to relax and think about something else.”

We met Malick in the Under Armour store in Piazza Gae Aulenti, Milan, during an event dedicated to the latest invention Magnetico Elite 3, a shoe produced by Under Armour Laboratories. The first things we perceive are the kindness and manners of this 22-year-old. Despite his age, Thiaw exudes the serenity and fortitude of a mature man, inspired by the legendary Paolo Maldini. With a Maldini-like grace, Thiaw shared his path of personal growth with us from when he stepped foot in Milan.

“Sometimes I miss Germany, but I am very comfortable in Milan. I already consider it my second home. The people are friendly, the food is great, and the weather is fine. My family feels the same way, and this is crucial for me. Going out with my son and wife, taking a walk around the Duomo. When I’m here, I do everything with them; that’s why I love it, I’m a family guy”.

It’s been a difficult year for Malick, marked by physical challenges that tested his determination. However, when he speaks of his season, goals and dreams, the young defender only confirms that inner strength and toughness that seems rooted in his multi-ethnic heritage.

“Regardless, it’s been an important season. It’s been educational, and those negative moments have helped me grow and learn. The important thing is to respond, to get back up. The only way to be a better footballer is by getting back on the field.”

“In terms of sports, my dreams are to win the Champions League and participate in the European Championship in Germany this summer. If we’re talking about life, it’s to continue to grow; to be a good person and do everything for my family.”

Malick Thiaw embodies not only the ideals needed for a defender of the present and future, but also of a man who has evolved and is willing to evolve further. Through calmness and strength.

Malick Thiaw playing with the Germany Football Team (2023)

Photo credits:

Under ArmourIMAGO / Uwe Kraft

Text by

Filippo Libenzi