Mens Team

Jerome Boateng: When the Boat comes in

Jerome Boateng was one of those players who never really settled in at City.

Injuries played their part, but he seemed almost agitated during his one season with the Club – for some reason, we never saw the best of him and vice versa.

In the latest of our First Impressions series, we reflect back on our first in-depth interview with Jerome. With not that much to talk about in terms of action on the pitch, we spoke about his early life in Germany…

Berlin. A city steeped in history and at one point divided by a wall that split East and West Germany down the middle until the people of Berlin tore it down on an unforgettable night in 1989.

It was Berlin that young Ghanaian, Prince Boateng, decided was a place he wanted to better himself in so he quit Africa in 1981 and headed for central Europe and a new life that would eventually lead to three sons and a daughter, all of whom went on to great success in their chosen careers.

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Prince’s attempts to study were thwarted and he was forced to find other work in order to put food on the table. After meeting a German girl, Catherine, the couple settled down and had two sons, Kevin and George.

Prince worked in a men’s fashion store by day and was a DJ by night, specialising in Michael Jackson as he attempted to give his sons a better life.

The strain was such that he eventually split up with his wife and later met an air stewardess who he fell in love with and later married.

The relationship led to two more children for Prince, Jerome and Avelina, though when Jerome was just two years-old, his father left the family home and his mother raised him and his sister alone.

“I don’t really recall my father being there because I was so young,” recalled Jerome. “He and my mother separated when I was small, but they remained good friends so it wasn’t as though I never saw him.

“We lived in an apartment in Wilmersdorf, which is a nice part of Berlin but my half-brothers lived in Wedding. It was a bit odd for me because although I saw Kevin and George fairly often when we were small kids, I couldn’t grasp that we shared the same dad.

“Obviously, as we grew up, I understood better.”


With just a few years between Jerome and his two half-brothers, the boys enjoyed going to watch Hertha Berlin play with their father as well as playing in the parks at weekends, but the difference in neighbourhoods meant Jerome wasn’t allowed to visit Wedding alone to have a kick-about with Kevin and George.

“I played football all the time but my mum made me study hard,” he continued. “All I ever wanted to do was play football – I wasn’t interested in anything else.

"I practiced all the time and I used to get in trouble for watching a German TV show which featured games from England, Spain and Italy.

“It was on at 1am and my mum would get fed up with me watching it and then having problems getting me up in the morning. I liked where I grew up – it was comfortable and I enjoyed school.

"As I got older I sort of knew I was pretty good at football and with Kevin and George being talented, too, we had some pretty competitive games in the park!

“It’s funny because of the three, George was the best player. At academy level he was a great talent and could have gone on and enjoyed a great career, but he would be the first to admit that he made some poor choices as a teenager and the distractions off the pitch eventually led to him not fulfilling the promise he had.”

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Jerome and Kevin had no such problems and, at last reunited as a family during their secondary school years, the boys became well-known for their talent with a football during their early teens.

“It was nice that we were together as a family,” Jerome recalled. “Kevin was picked up by Hertha Berlin and I followed not long after. We both were doing well and were selected by Germany but eventually Kevin fell out with the hierarchy and he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to play for Ghana instead.’

“For me there was only Germany. I’m very proud of my father’s roots and that I’m half Ghanaian, but I wanted to play for my birth country and so we had the unusual situation of Kevin and I playing for different countries. Our father was very proud because he had the best of both worlds!”

ON THE BALL: Jerome Boateng in action for City against Fulham
ON THE BALL: Jerome Boateng in action for City against Fulham

Jerome reached a crossroads in his life in his mid-teens when he had to choose where his future really lay. He had two options but felt he couldn’t do both if he was to succeed in either.

“It was university or football,” he said. “I needed to concentrate on one or the other and so I told my mother I wanted to take a year out of my studies. If I didn’t make it, I’d go to university and get my qualifications but Hertha Berlin signed me and my decision was vindicated.”

Indeed. Jerome’s progress was such that he worked his way through the ranks at Hertha Berlin from the age 13 until he made his senior debut aged 17. Within a year he was a first team regular and, at the age 18, Hamburg made a £1m offer that was accepted by the Berliners.

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“I had to move out of my home for the first time so it was a little strange, but I liked Hamburg,” he said. “It’s a very interesting city and I quickly settled in. They had players such as Rafael van der Vaart, Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong and I soon felt at home.

“I remember playing City in a friendly in Hamburg when Mark Hughes was the manager and then it was funny because both Vincent and Nigel left for City. I kept in touch with both of them from time to time and they were both really happy.

“I was sorry to see them both go. I understood Vincent’s reasons for moving and Nigel’s too. They were both really popular players and Nigel was really popular with the fans because of his style.

“Then, of course, we were all reunited in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2009. The second leg at the City of Manchester Stadium was incredible and I just thought ‘Wow!’

"It was an amazing night and Elano was incredible, but we just hung on to go through. As soon as City came in for me, I remembered that night and didn’t have to think too long about the move.

“City gave me the best feeling because they often phoned my agent and said they want me to sign for them. I spoke with other clubs, too, but I am young and the move from Germany to England excited me the most. And when I was younger I always wanted to play in England.”

What happened next? A disagreement with manager Roberto Mancini seems to have been the reason Jerome moved on from City after just one season.

He had played just 24 games when he signed for Bayern Munich where has remained ever since, making more than 300 appearances for the Bundesliga giants.