Kevin-Prince Boateng has explained why he unveiled a shirt paying tribute to Ajax midfielder Abdelhak Nouri during Eintracht Frankfurt’s victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
20-year-old Nouri was left with serious and permanent brain damage after collapsing during a pre-season friendly against Werder Bremen on July 8.
Despite never meeting Nouri, the tragedy has clearly touched Boateng, with the midfielder lifting his jersey to reveal a shirt with ’34 Nouri’ – the number the Dutch-Moroccan youngster wore at Ajax – after opening the scoring in the 13th minute at Gladbach.
“My celebration was for the little boy Nouri,” Boateng told the Bundesliga’s official website, “because we all know what happened to him and I wanted to just show them that we pray for him and we pray for the family.”
Nouri, who represented the Netherlands at every youth level up to U-19s, was a Europa League runner-up with Ajax last term after making three appearances in the competition, and also took his first steps in the Eredivisie with the Amsterdam giants, making nine appearances.
“He was an outstanding football player,” Boateng explained after the match, as reported by Bild. “This is a tragedy, and I want his family to know that I pray for him.
“I’ll wear the shirt under my jersey all season.”
The goal was Boateng’s first in the Bundesliga since returning from Las Palmas during the summer, and his first in the German top flight since he found the net for Schalke 04 against Wolfsburg in February 2014.
The Ghana international thought he’d nabbed a second when he poked Sebastien Haller’s effort over the goalline – even though the shot was destined for goal anyway – before being flagged for offside.
“That would have been the easiest goal of my career,” Prince joked. “I didn’t want to take it.”
Boateng was replaced after 51 minutes after a collision with Jannik Vestergaard, but Eintracht held on for a valuable 1-0 triumph.