By Walter Broeckx
This is a little story of the football in my home country. You have to wait a bit to see the link with Arsenal but I promise you, it will come.
Last year I was appointed as a ref for a game involving the youth team of a first division club in Antwerp against one from Bruges. I did my game and I noticed the captain of the home team who really showed great skills, technique, energy. He was a giant on the pitch amongst the other players.
After the game at the reception I talked with the responsible person of the youth system of that club about that player and he said that there had been scouts from all over Europe to see him play. On the day they reckoned he had a rather mediocre performance but I really was rather impressed, and was I would remember his name as I had given him a yellow card (which he deserved).
The person I spoke gave names of teams that had come to see him and I must say it was impressive. Liverpool, Everton, yes I can’t help it, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, PSG, Lille – they where there on the day – and many other teams had come and wanted a word with the boy who was becoming 16 years old.
So at the end of the season there was a lot in the press because his club had received all kind of offers from different clubs and the players’ parents had been talking to different clubs.
As the clubs official had said to me: the boy was rather down to earth and had already said that he didn’t want to go to another country, just to waste time. He would rather stay with his home club in that case. He then received an offer from his own club to stay with them and he was added to the first team squad to try to learn things at home.
So this weekend he was on the bench for a home game and after half an hour the playmaker of his team had to be replaced after a horror tackle from the other team which had left him with an open wound of some 8 cm (you could see all the way until his bone). And the manager brought the youngster, 16 years old, to make his debut in our premier league.
Well it can only happen in dreams but now it was in real life. The home team was 0-1 behind when he came on and after 90 minutes they had won 3-1 and the young debutant had scored 2 goals as a midfielder-playmaker.
Today of course he was big news in the media. He had to give some interviews, which he did rather well I must say. Very low profile, down to earth and telling people he still had to learn a lot, …
On the local TV channel which we have here he also gave a good interview and talked of the danger of being overhyped, that he was not demanding a starting place in the team, but just learning and trying to do his best and maybe who knows at the end of the season if he could get a start that would be more than great for him. So again very humble and down to earth stuff from the kid.
At the end the reporter asked him that if he would have a dream to come through what would it be in football? And the young man said: “Well if I would have a dream then it would be to play in the Champions league”.
The reporter asked : “Do you have any preference in which team?” And the kid answered: “No I don’t have a favorite foreign team but if there is one team I would like to play with, it would be Arsenal because they really play some magnificent football.” The reporter then said: “Well if Vermaelen made it, maybe you can do it too.”
Now I know this is just a fairy tale like it happens every now and then in football but I really think that 15 years ago it never would have appeared in the head of a young boy to name Arsenal. Arsenal was known in the football world because of the “boring, boring Arsenal” myth. That was all.
But now we have a team and a way of playing considered, known as Wengerball one might say, all over the world as one of the best there is to see. This we owe to our manager and his way of working with the youngsters. We play the best football in the world, we have some great players, a manager who sticks to his principles off beautiful and attacking play.
So the dream of good young kids over the world is not to play for the “big” clubs like Madrid, MU, Inter…. No, we are the team good, young football players would love to play for. I know, we don’t get anything for this, it won’t win us titles, it won’t give us anything…but pride. Pride to be a part of that great Gunners and Gooners family. Pride of being a supporter of the best club the world has ever seen.
A part of the legacy of the manager that would make us the best club in the world, and part of the present where the best manager of the world makes the best team in the world and plays the best football in the world. You would be amazed of the great amount of sympathy there is over the world for our team.
We don’t know if the boy is really going to make it in the long term, but if he ever would come to the Arsenal, if he would be good enough, be sure I will let you know. You would have read it here first.
Walter Broeckx has been a passionate Arsenal follower since 1979 from Flanders, Belgium. For the last couple of years he is the main news reporter for the Arsenal fans in Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg where he produces a daily portion of Arsenal news. His passion for football goes so far that he even is a referee. In the real world he is married, has 4 children including some Gooners, and he works as a civil servant involved in planning permission in a small town.
Over on the MAKING THE ARSENAL today: life and football one hundred years ago – including a couple of surprises.