Welcome back. I’ll start this evening with Mesut Ozil, who today rubbished mischievous recent reports that had suggested the German schemer would push for a move away from Arsenal if Arsene Wenger remained as manager.
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) 22 March 2016
Much like Duncan Castles’ piece for ONE World Sports telling us ‘third parties’ have sounded out Jose Mourinho about shocking football to it’s core and succeeding Arsene as Arsenal boss, the Ozil story about him giving the club a ‘me or my manager’ ultimatum is no more than made-up sh*t-stirring.
Moving swiftly on then, but sticking with our assist-king Ozil, the German has been reminiscing about how he honed his footballing abilities in an interview with Arsenal Magazine. He said:
When I was younger, if I saw something lying around, I would try to juggle with it. I would always go on vacation with my friends and we would always play games like two touch using a tennis ball, or play with a basketball, which is heavier than a normal ball. [I didn’t just play] with chewing gum or tennis balls, sometimes with basketballs or medicine balls too – even ones that are 5kg, though that is very difficult. Sometimes on the pitch if the game has finished and I see some tape on the floor, I’ll take it and play with that too. What helped me before was playing against older people. I would play against my brother and his friends and they were always five or six years older than me. When I was 11, they were already 17 or 18. It was tough to play against them and the pitch I grew up playing on wasn’t that nice, it always had stones on it. You had to be really concentrated when you got the ball. I think that kind of stuff helped me more. Juggling with tennis balls is good but I think what helped my technique was the pitch I grew up on in Gelsenkirchen.
I have to say reading that made be smile, but also left me very confused. Smile because I did most of the above; play football with and against my brother, his friends, our cousins, their friends, all of whom were considerably older than me. I too kicked tennis balls and basketballs and even tightly rolled up socks (to avoid breaking stuff in the house). Yet what confuses me is that I’m not a World Cup winner who’s played for the best club in the world and Real Madrid. Weird.
On a serious note, I’ve long held the view that talent acquisition for a footballer comes at a young age and can’t be coached. It’s self-taught and Ozil’s a great example of a player who developed his abilities in a chaotic playing environment as opposed to pristine playing surfaces in a state-of-the-art academy where physical attributes are way more valued than footballing intelligence, speed of thought and ball control. Anyway, that’s a topic and discussion for another time because I’m beat and need to make the most of what little of my evening I have left.