Süleyman Koç is an encourager, and a brutally honest one at that. “Today, I am an inspiring example,” he said. “In the past, I was a perfect idiot.”

His transformation reads like a modern-day football fairytale. In 2011, the Berlin, Germany native was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison for his role in several casino robberies.

Koç's unorthodox success story transpired behind bars during his sentence, starting with a letter of apology to his former football coach. Before his imprisonment, Koç played for SV Babelsberg 03, a German football association club. In the emotional letter, he asked his teammates for forgiveness, and the response he got back from his coach was filled with words of encouragement and confidence.

Kick Off for a New Life

“It gave me hope, and I started to work out in my prison cell,” Koç said. The goal of returning to football got him through the long, lonely months of incarceration. Thanks to good conduct, he was released early in 2013.

The 24-year-old returned to the pitch for Babelsberg 03 before transferring to SC Paderborn and, recently, a first league club.

“Football has given me a new life,” Koç said. “My parents can be proud of me again.”

Today the pro footballer is committed to supporting those whose lives are stuck in an impasse, as he once was. That’s why, earlier this year, Koç, Coca-Cola and the German Soccer Federation’s “Kick Off for a New Life” campaign brought the authentic FIFA World Cup trophy to the Plötzensee juvenile detention center in Berlin to surprise members of the prison team.

Kick Off for a New Life

“I could hardly believe that I actually stood in front of the FIFA World Cup trophy that Pele and Maradona held in their hands,” said Koç, describing the moment when the trophy was revealed behind the prison walls.

He concluded, “We showed the guys, ‘You are somebody! And you are part of the FIFA World Cup!'”