Ben Arfa - The Geordies Have Changed Me!
Hatem Ben Arfa has had a troubled career, but he says life on Tyneside has changed him into a better player. If any star player has doubts about joining NUFC, they should read this article.
He looks for a way to explain a new-found maturity.
Hatem Ben Arfa: "Against Liverpool, in the first 30 minutes, I lost every ball.
"Everyone was saying, 'What are you doing?' and the gaffer was thinking, 'What's going on?' When I was younger, if that had happened after 30 minutes, I would have lost confidence. I would have gone in my shell. Now, I keep going, it is my responsibility.
"I had to keep going, and then tick, tick. The ball came to me. I went past Jose Enrique, crossed to Yohan [Cabaye] and we scored.
"I carried a burden of responsibility since I was spotted as a child, playing football in Clamart (a Parisian suburb).
"I was about six or seven when I used to play in the area where I grew up.
"When I was young I played with my friends and people around my home. They would come and say, 'Ah, we want you in our team,' and, 'You're going to be a good player.'
"It came naturally to me. Football came naturally. The control, the touch, the balance, it is natural. Even the tricks, they are natural.
"When I'm on the pitch, I'm not thinking about what I'm going to do. It is instinctive.
"Of course, when I was young you see the people believe in you, sometimes you want to go and play on your own. Sometimes you feel shy. If I did not play well, people would say, 'Oh, what is wrong?'
"The pressure has always been there. I grew up with that. Of course it was hard as a child. It is hard growing up, and people said I would be the next big thing.
"It was hard when I started. I was 12. I had left my house. I grew up with a lot of guys, there were a lot of us together.
"I have good memories of Clairefontaine. I look back and it was one of the best experiences of my life. When you are young, you do not care what people say.
"Then you have the years when you are 17, 18 and 19 when you wonder what people are going to say about you and you don't have a lot of the pleasure of playing football.
"Then, with maturity, you enjoy it more and you have pleasure. That is the difference between now and before. I am happier within myself."
"I left to sign for Lyons. In 2008, then moved to Marseilles for £10m. I won the Ligue 1 title in 2010, and that summer, at the end of August, moved, initially on loan, to Newcastle.
"In my fourth game, my leg was snapped in two places. I broke his tibia and fibula, and did not play for nine months.
"It was a very hard period, when your leg is like that and you don't have power. You're in hospital and in pain, and you see football on the television; it is very difficult. But I learned from it as well.
"I think there is a reason I had that experience, maybe to learn more. I am happy to have had that experience today – but not then. I can be philosophical about it now. It is a very good thing. I have learned from the experience.
"Now it is finished, but I used to ask my friens, over and over, 'Same or not? Same or not?' I would say to everyone in the dressing room, 'Is it the same as the other leg? Come, look, are they the same size?' Always asking.
"Sometimes they would wind me up and say 'no' and I would train on it again. Now it is finished. When I came back it was hard but now I am OK.
"In January I was short-listed for Fifa's Puskas Award for the "most beautiful" goal of the year.
"It was in Newcastle and all the stadium saw the goal. I am very happy about that. I was very happy. I like to do a trick, to do something different. Here I have the confidence to do that.I want to give the fans something back.
"It is a job but I love what I am doing and I enjoy it every day. It is very important to enjoy. Of course you have to win but football is a spectacle, you know. The fans come to see the game for spectacle.
"They want us to win but they want to see something special as well. I want to give them pleasure.
"I feel very happy in Newcastle, I feel welcome, I feel loved here. I love the city, I love the place. I love it when the fans come to meet me, or they come to see me.
"This is the most confidence I have been given in my career and I want to do well for the club and the fans. I have realised that it is 30 per cent talent and the rest is hard work. Here in the Premier League you have to be very strong first. After that you can play.
"I am happier now because I understand myself better.
"I slow down, I don't bite. I have more control. I am more mature. I am 25, I am relaxed. I have serenity now.
"Every experience I have had in my life has been to make me like that. Not just football, you know, everything that happens in your life helps to improve you. I am growing up more and more and more. Every time you learn from your life, from every situation.
"Sometimes we learn the easy way, sometimes we learn the hard way; sometimes you don't want to learn. If you do not learn, in maybe two days it will happen again. Life will give you something to understand. If you don't, it will come back again and again.
"Am I more mature because I understand what is expected of me now? Of course."
Source: Newcastle United Mad
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