Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal's future soccer star?
What were you doing at age 14? Like me, you were probably trying to look cool while suffering from the nauseating awkwardness of puberty. The last thing on our minds was whether we'd be playing for a top-tier English soccer club in two years. But Gedion Zelalem is not like we were.
Zelalem, a freshman at Bethesda's Walter Johnson High School who moonlights on a traveling soccer squad, spent his summer vacation training with Arsenal at the team's facility north of London, the Post reports. Zelalem is a German citizen of Ethiopian descent, with permanent-resident status in the U.S. He tweets, and even has a fan page on Facebook.
Should the teen accept a spot in the team's training program — which, according to FIFA rules, can't happen before age 16 — he would move back to London and be groomed to play in the Premier League.
We've heard a similar story before:
Zelalem is not the first high school soccer player from the area to seek a pro career. Most famously, Freddy Adu, a native of Ghana and a naturalized U.S. citizen, signed with Major League Soccer in 2004 at age 14 and played regularly with D.C. United for three years before being traded to Real Salt Lake.
Adu, though he's played for the U.S. national team several times this year, didn't live up to the hype. Those who've watched Zelalem say he's different — less flash than Adu, but more nuance. “His sophistication and understanding of the game is far higher than anyone I’ve seen,” Wildcats coach Mike Williams said. “He is able to set the tempo like none other.”
Said a teammate: “Being from Europe, you can see he is a little ahead. He’s very skillful and a quick thinker.”
It's true; American soccer players are a little behind, less skillful, and slow thinkers.
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