Marouane Chamakh: The Arsenal striker who puts politics before Playstation

03 October 2010 10:45

The figures are damning. Chelsea have beaten Arsenal nine times in 13matches since 2005, the year when Arsenal last won a trophy. In the corresponding period, Chelsea have collected seven trophies, including two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. And Didier Drogba is the scourge of Arsenal, having scored 12 times against them in his last 10 games.

Marouane Chamakh, the Moroccan international who is taking his first steps in the Premier League, absorbs most of this unflustered. It is only when the Ivory Coast striker's goal-scoring record against his new club is recalled, that his eyebrows are raised insurprise, although it may be alarm.

'We obviously have to prevent him from causing us any problems and ensure that he gets as few attempts on goal as possible,' said Chamakh, who has impressive enough early figures of his own, four goals in his first nine games for Arsenal. 'Drogba has proven himself with Chelsea and for young Africans in France and in Africa he is the player who inspires young people to compete.' 

Goal threat: Marouane Chamakh scores against Braga

So he would be the ideal inspiration for Chamakh, then, being a youngAfrican who was born and grew up in France but represents Morocco, the country of his parents?

'No,' answered the Arsenal striker directly, the eulogy coming to an abrupt end. 'For me it was Zidane.'

Itis natural enough that he would be drawn to Zinedine Zidane who, like him, is the son of north African immigrants to France, albeit from Algeria. Zidane started his career at Bordeaux, just as Chamakh did.

'He always made me want to play football and do the right things,' said Chamakh. 'It gave me strength seeing him and made me want to do the samethings.'

Chamakh in business: Marouane Chamakh has scored four in nine for ArsenAl

However, on the eve of a clash of heavyweight title contenders such as this and confronted with a question about an opponent, many would search for the predictable answer and give the required response about how the player in question was a personal inspiration. Yet Chamakh is not a player to take refuge in clich?

His interests outside of football may include the ubiquitous PlayStation - he is promoting a new computer game, EA Sports FIFA 11 - but he also lists reading, history and politics. He is a practising Muslim and teetotal.

All told, it is not quite what the public may have in mind when they imagine their identikit Premier League footballer. In fact, Chamakh is as relaxed discussing the potential contradictions of his Left-wing politics as Arsenal's abysmal record against today's opponents.

'I realised about it before I came,' he said. 'My opinion is that Arsenal played good games but just didn't manage to win. It is just a little thing that needs to be corrected, to show a bit more strength and to concentrate on these three points and not be distracted.'

It is an insight many more experienced observers of the English game might offer and yet he does not pinpoint the muscularity of Drogba, the athleticism of Michael Essien or the physicality of John Terry. According to Chamakh, the inferiority is all in the mind.

'It is mental,' he said. 'Physically we are ready; just mentally it will count. The two teams are both well able to score goals but what counts is the team who will defend best: they will win the match.' 

That is a bold claim, given the terrible defending and goalkeeping whichmarred Arsenal's 3-2 defeat against West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

'It's true that in defence we could do better but it's not just the four defenders and the goalkeeper.

Idol: Zinedine Zidane

'As the centre forward, I'm thefirst defender and it's just that we need to co-ordinate all 11together,' he said. 'There are players who have been there for four orfive years without a trophy. That's a long time for them as well. It'simportant that this year we have even more desire to win than theprevious years.'

Itis easy to see why many inside Arsenal feel that in signing Chamakh,who possesses a leap like Les Ferdinand, they have replicated thestrengths of Emmanuel Adebayor without the personal baggage.

Whenback in Bordeaux, Chamakh likes to help out in his brother's Moroccantea shop, although he leaves the delicate matter of preparing the minttea to his brother.

'Ijust stand there and serve the cold drinks!' he explains. 'Of course,it surprised some people when they would come in there to see meserving, but it kept my feet on the ground. The people who really knowme weren't surprised.'

And his sense of communityengagement goes still further. Earlier this year he backed a SocialDemocrat politician, Jean Lassalle, in local elections for theAquitaine region of south west France, in which he was born and raised.

'I'm very interested in politics andthe fact that I knew this person meant I could give him a hand,' hesays. 'His whole manifesto was based around sport. That's why Isupported him.'

He pauses for a moment to ponder onwhether it is a contradiction for a Premier League footballer (averageearnings £2million a year) to support a party of the Left beforeresponding: 'There is no contradiction because the political level l'mtalking about isn't the national level. It's not a party of the Leftwhere you're going to ask for an increase in taxes. It's about how theyare going to spend the money raised by taxes and I was particularlyattracted because they were going to spend on sports projects.'

Althoughclearly immersed in French life, he chosen to play for the country ofhis parents - unlike Zidane, as he points out - when it would have beenfinancially more lucrative to play for France.

'It was a very difficult choice. I thought about it long and hard and I came to the conclusion that Morocco is the country of my origin, the country of my parents. That's why I chose them.'

It is a decision that has stimulated his curiosity further, his most recent choice of reading being the autobiography of General Ahmed Dlimi, a controversial figure in Morocco in the 1970s who died in a suspicious car crash in 1983.

'I'm very interested in history and I'm trying to discover about my country,' says Chamakh.

Noting some surprise in the room, he adds: 'You shouldn't think that all footballers just play football and then their PlayStation.'

Some do - but not Marouane Chamakh.

Marouane Chamakh appears in EA SPORTS' FIFA 11, out now on all formats. Visit for details.

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Source: Daily_Mail