It is two years since Mathieu Flamini played his last professional football match for Getafe in La Liga. The former Arsenal and Milan midfielder is now routinely described as retired but that is hardly an adequate summation of the Frenchman’s life these days.
“I am busier than ever,” he tells Sky Sports. “But good busy.”
It is in his nature. “I am someone with a lot of energy. I train every day. It is part of my lifestyle. If I sit down on a chair I become anxious so I have to train every single day.”
It helps that Flamini, now 37, is about as driven as they come and during an hour-long conversation that touches on many of the issues facing the world today, his passion for the subject of sustainability is infectious. It ranges from matters personal to global.
Perhaps you are already aware of his much-publicised investment in biofuels.
“I am doing a lot in that field,” he says. “I am trying to find solutions.”
He is starting with himself.
“I have not been eating any animal protein for the past seven or eight years. I don’t eat dairy. It works for me and if it works for me then it should be able to work for others. Soon there won’t be space to produce meat so we all have to evolve our lifestyle.
“I am shocked that in football there are young kids of 10 years old and even top athletes drinking these unhealthy energy drinks full of sugar and colourant.”
He sees misinformation as the enemy in today’s society.
“Today, what has been proven is that people get their information on the internet and on social media. What is frustrating is that people call themselves experts when they are not. I would really like to see a world where people know the facts from experts and scientists.”
It is this desire to make a difference that has sparked his latest venture with former Arsenal colleague Mesut Ozil. The co-founders of UNITY launch their new supplement range, developed in collaboration with leading scientists at the University of Westminster.
“We are good friends who share the same beliefs about giving back,” says Flamini.
“We have a social responsibility because we have some exposure. We have a platform. We have a following. Mesut does it through social impacts. He helps people who cannot afford meals. I am doing it a bit more through sustainability and focused on climate change.”
Flamini and Ozil have done more than just lend their names to the product.
This is their baby.
“We had two options. One was to work on an existing formulation, like everybody does, and then work on the branding and get it out into the marketing. But we did not want to go to a supplier and them show us the best 200 products and just pick one.
“We decided to do it the hardest and best possible way. We went to the scientists and basically developed from scratch some better formulas using the best ingredients and the best delivery systems, avoiding all the harmful ingredients and chemicals.”
Flamini knows more than most about the subject of physical preparation having worked with the famed Milan Lab that “tests everything from your eyes to your mobility”. He remembers being scanned every week for body fat and muscle development at Arsenal.
But still he insists that there was always something missing.
“The scientists have come up with four supplement formulations,” he explains.
“We did not want any colourant. We wanted to do capsules without that so the only option was to have green capsules because that was natural chlorophyll from the leaf.
“The idea is to create supplements that target specific health goals which will ultimately allow people to take control of their health. The products in the market elsewhere were never natural enough or were focused on things that were less important.
“We have come up with a product validated by the athlete but also by science.”
Typically, there is a sustainability angle here.
“We have created a partnership with the Felix Project charity which collects food from restaurants and from farmers who sadly have to throw away food. Every year, 30 per cent of the food produced is being thrown away. It is being wasted while some people cannot afford to eat.
“Because consumers request the perfect product, what happens is that the big supermarkets put massive pressure on the farmers. They only select the perfect carrot or the perfect apple when one that does not look perfect has the same nutritional value.
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“The Felix Project take this healthy food and converts it into healthy meals for kids. We decided to support them in that journey and that fight. For every supplement product that we sell we will deliver two healthy meals to schoolchildren which uses this wasted food.
“I am trying to use my platform to create awareness. Sport must do its part to make the planet more sustainable. How can we use sport to help people have a healthier lifestyle? How can we help the fans, help all the kids have a healthier lifestyle? That starts as kids.”
And what is Ozil’s role in this? While Flamini’s playing career is over, his old team-mate is playing on with Fenerbahce in Turkey. According to his friend, “it goes without saying that playing is his number one priority” but Ozil should not be mistaken for a silent partner.
“He has a lot of ideas and a lot of input. Sometimes he challenges us on decisions. It is like a brainstorming process, WhatsApp calls and messages, pictures back and forth. It is a lot of fun because it gives us an opportunity to stay in touch and speak on a regular basis.
“It continues a friendship that we have had for many years.”
What is success for UNITY?
“We want to educate people and help them to make more informed decisions on their health and wellness including exercising, eating better and having a positive impact on people’s health.
“If UNITY can help people to make even small changes to their lifestyle that would be a great success.
“I am just thankful because I have been living the dream that I had as a kid. Now I am trying to give back and have a positive impact.”
Flamini’s football career is over. But it seems he is just getting started.
UNITY co-founders, Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil, have launched their new U ULTRA supplement range, developed in collaboration with leading University of Westminster scientists at Europe’s first Centre for Nutraceuticals
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