Saturday, April 2, 2016 7:59 am
Mesut Ozil’s magical touch and stunning ability to locate team-mates with his peerless passing marks him out as one of the most naturally gifted footballers to have ever graced the Premier League.
And the German, crowned footballer of the year, recently, has revealed that, rather than intensive organised drills and coaching sessions within a formal structure, his talent is very much ‘from the streets’.
“I was a football freak,” says the player with 16 Premier League assists this season, just four away from the all-time record held by Thierry Henry, “I loved it. I would go to school, play football and then play for a club afterwards. I’d finish school at 1pm and got to my club at 5pm. I filled that time by playing football with my friends. Then I’d go to training for another two hours or so. I’d be playing for five hours a day. In summer it would get dark a lot later. I’d look out, see my friends playing in the ‘monkey cage’ and join them. I just played football almost all day.”
As we’ve seen, Mesut’s effortless control isn’t just confined to conventional football, on the streets he learnt a trick or two and he’s become famous for his keepie uppies with chewing gum too: “Yeah, not only 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.
Mesut’s childhood obsession with the beautiful game even caused concern at one point, with worries his relentless participation could affect his chances of playing professionally.
“It got to the stage where my dad spoke to my coach at Rot-Weiss Essen and said, ‘he can’t play, he’s tired and you can see that on the pitch because yesterday he spent 10 hours playing football with his mates’.
”That’s just how it was for me. Football was all there was for me. Maybe on the day before a game, I would try not to play until 11pm but I just wanted to do what I enjoyed. Football was, and still is my life.”