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No World Cup, but Thomas Vermaelen happy to be Arsenal's foreign ambassador
Published : 25 May 2010 17:28:12
With Belgium again failing to qualify for the World Cup finals, Vermaelen has no involvement himself in the tournament and will instead devote a considerable part of his summer break to charity. It will take him to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where leprosy remains a significant problem. 'First I'll go to Belgium for a week, after that I'm making a really interesting trip to Congo,' said Vermaelen. 'It's for a charity inspired by Father Damien, who was a Belgian priest who went to Hawaii to help people who had leprosy. He eventually caught the disease himself and died of it, and there is now a charity devoted to his work. Related ArticlesFabregas 'wants quick move'Bracewell-Smith suffers Arsenal auction blowArsenal Trust urge caution from shareholderFifa should copy NBA in Cesc Fabregas affairFifa can learn from NBABarcelona plan 'respectful' chase'They make a trip to Congo, which used to be a Belgian colony, and asked me to be an ambassador I was pleased to accept and look forward to going over there and helping as much as I can.' There will also be time to reflect on a first season in English football with Arsenal that has been a mixture of personal success but collective disappointment at the defining moments. 'I'm told that in the past few years we were good in the big games but lost points against the lower teams,' said Vermaelen. 'I don't know what this says you have to look at every game individually and where things went wrong because each has its own story, you cannot simply say that we win against some and lose against others. "It is too easy to say there is a general pattern. If you want to learn from your mistakes you have to analyse every single match and see what we did badly and every time against Manchester United and Chelsea it was something different, not the same thing repeatedly. 'As you grow older you keep growing in experience and character, and I'm convinced we can do something next season. We have to learn from things but we're still young and, while we mustn't use it as an excuse, we had a lot of injuries to really important players over the season like Robin, Cesc and Andrey and didn't play many games with our best team. "If we can keep our players fit I'm sure something good can happen.' There is particular uncertainty, however, regarding Arsenal's future options at centre-back. William Gallas, Mikaël Silvestre and Sol Campbell are all out of contract, meaning Vermaelen and Johan Djourou are currently the only central defenders whose long-term futures are settled. The partnership with Gallas was one of the successes of the season. 'It seemed to work pretty much straightaway,' said Vermaelen. 'That's because William is a really quality player, a top defender, so it is automatically easy to play with him. We talked a lot and I think I've had a good relationship with him on the pitch.' Vermaelen admits that he surpassed his own personal expectations for the season, particularly with the number of matches he has played. 'I really didn't expect to play as much as I did this season,' he said. 'As it is, I've played 45 or 50 games and that was really important. Over that time I kept learning about the league, kept adapting, and that was important because I'd come straight from the Dutch league to perhaps the toughest league in the world. "It means that every game was a hard one for me. 'It's better the English way, because there are more allowances given for both sides and you can have proper contests with strikers. They're all really physical and hard to play against here the intensity can be unbelievable but it's nice to play every game at a level like that.' This is an extract of an exclusive Thomas Vermaelen interview featuring in this month's Official Arsenal Magazine, which also includes exclusive interviews with manager Arsène Wenger, and Jack Wilshere available now from leading high street stores. To subscribe, please call 0845 880 0445.