Issue 69 June 2010
Nicolas Anelka, whose national team is France, first played for Tarppes. He currently plays for Premier League Champions, Chelsea.
I started playing football when I was eight years old. We used to play in the neighbourhood where I was born in Versailles. Even then, it was quite obvious that I had a talent for football, and my two elder brothers encouraged me. So did my parents, once they realised it was my ambition to be a footballer.
The very first club I joined was Tarppes – a town near Paris. From there I moved to Paris Saint-Germain. I was inspired to become a professional footballer by my brother Claude who was also a footballer.
I became a Muslim in 1995 when I was 16. My childhood friends, who were Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, influenced my thinking and I found their beliefs to my liking. Being a Muslim makes me have a calmer and more philosophical outlook to life. I think carefully about everything I do, and daily prayers keep me focussed. This outlook to life also keeps me protected from the challenges of fame and glamour which all top footballers face. I try to stay out of the lime-light outside of football, and I like to relax with my family – my Belgian wife Barbara and two boys called Kais and Kahil.
Though I never eat before a game, I find fasting difficult during matches as I get injuries more easily. I support charities that help the poor and sick in Africa and in a few months time I will be doing something big with a charity in the UK. Apart from my brother Claude, my biggest influence in football has been the Brazilian player Ronaldo. My childhood friends have been my biggest influence in my faith; I still keep in touch with them – some are taxi drivers and office workers.
I’m hoping France will win the World Cup this year and I’m hoping to be playing in South Africa in June. However, the best footballer in the world now is the Argentinean Lionel Messi. My most memorable football match has to be the one I played for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League semi-final in 2000: in the second leg I scored a goal that took us through to the final – which we went on to win, defeating Valencia in the Stade de France.