Nabil Bentaleb: “In England at 17 I didn’t speak the language, I communicated through football.”

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In speaking with Ouest France, former Tottenham and Schalke midfielder Nabil Bentaleb (27), who recently signed a long term deal with Ligue 1 Angers, discussed his route into football, his flirtation with a futsal career and the support of his parents after Lille released him for being too small as a teenager.

After your debut in football, you opted for futsal?
“Yes, I started in football, like many do, with a small neighbourhood club in Lille. Afterwards, I devoted a lot of time to futsal. The transition came when a choice had to be made between indoor futsal and 11-a-side on grass. I chose football. I came to a point where the two didn’t work together, I had too many practices. I was 15, I’d left the Lille training centre and I was at Dunkirk. In terms of logistics, it was getting complicated. But it remains an important step in my career.”

Is this what made you?
“In part, yes. With Lille, I was filled with dreams. I wanted to play for the LOSC first team. Being released by the club forced me to choose between two roads: either you give up, or you continue… I was lucky to have parents who supported me and believed in me. I always had a taste for football, but their guidance helped me get through a tough period mentally at that age. And it helped me a lot in going to England at 17, where I grew in character. I didn’t speak the language, only that of football. I communicated through football. That gives you a very strong mentality.”

How did you make this decision?
“With my parents, my brothers and sister, who believed in me… They let me do what I wanted. I could have played basketball, I was completely free with my choices. Not being retained by Lille was difficult to accept but, with their help, I didn’t give up. I wasn’t physically developed enough. I felt that was an injustice, but, deep down, they [Lille] were probably right, I was probably not ready. That allowed me to progress differently and to forge character. I bare no grudges.”

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