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“I was sixteen years old and taking the place of the best player in the world”

After completing a successful first year at the club, the match day program spoke exclusively Martin Odegaard On his rapid rise as a young footballer in Norway, his life as a teenager at Real Madrid and writing the next chapter at Arsenal.

Martin Odegaard has always been destined to live in football. Son of Hans-Erik Odegaard, who himself had a successful career in the Norwegian league in the 1990s and 2000s, Martin grew up surrounded by the sport – not that he would have had it any other way.

Whether playing or watching, our number 8 holder has always had a deep love and passion for the game.

“I’ve always been a big football fan,” he began. “Since I can remember, I always tried to watch every game on TV. The Premier League was always the biggest league, with the most interest in it, so I watched it every weekend.

“I used to meet up with friends and watch all the matches and I loved that. I also went to the matches of my hometown club so yes I always enjoyed watching football.

“I think the first time I went to see a game in the stadium was one of my father’s matches,” he continues. “He was playing in the first division in Norway and I was very young at the time, maybe five or six years old. But I remember going to those matches to watch him.

“I was born and raised in Drammen, but he actually moved to a new club when I was really young, so I don’t remember him playing much for the club in Drammen. He moved to a team called Sandefjord and I’ll go and watch it there. It was about an hour away from home.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Martin was one of the first true footballers. A quick summary of his achievements as a teenager in Norway. When he was thirteen, he played for Stromsgodset’s first team in a friendly match, and the following year he represented the reserve in senior football. Then, at 15 years and 118 days old, he became the youngest player ever to appear in the Norwegian First Division, when he made his debut in April 2014. In May, he broke the league record for youngest goalscorer, and two months later made his Champions League debut. , in the qualifying stage.

By this time, he had already represented the national team at under-15, under-16 and under-17 levels, and in August of 2014, he became the youngest international player in the history of his country. He was only 15 years and 253 days old when he played the full 90 minutes of a home friendly match against the United Arab Emirates.

“I’ve been playing soccer or watching soccer all my life when I was young,” says Martin, who turned 23 in December. “There was not a single moment when I thought I wanted to be a footballer.

“My parents told me that from the moment I could walk, I started kicking the ball in the garden at home. So I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have an interest in football. My dad played too of course, it was always around me. Then I grew up, all my friends played too, We all had the same interests, so it was natural for me to start playing as well.”

What also seemed to be normal, was the adorable gift he gave shortly after the start. It was clear that Norwegian football, and specifically Stromsgodst, ​​had a miracle on their hands.

He had to get used to the increased attention and interest, but as he explains, he never felt out of the ordinary for him.

“When I started playing at youth level, there weren’t many people watching those matches.

“We don’t play in the stadiums or anything else, just a few parents and others standing around the stadium. But I played my first game for the first team when I was 15, so I was playing in front of the fans at that age. Those are the first games I really remember Apart from that I played some matches for the national team at youth level, but there is not really a game that is characterized by a large crowd or a large number of people, before I first played the football team.”

This was a quick change. Signing for the world’s most famous club, Real Madrid, at the age of 16 would have an impact.

However, once again, the inevitable rise in profile following his move from Norway to La Liga, is something Martin cut his way.

“I wouldn’t say it was a shock, but yes, it was definitely a big change,” he says.

“Stromsgodst had a capacity of about 7,000 people, and then suddenly I was at the Bernabeu in Madrid with 80,000 people there. So it was a big change, but I didn’t feel like it was much at any point. Honestly, I just enjoyed it.

“I love playing in front of people and I always think the fans are very important to help you out on the field, help the team, give energy. So I always had fun with it. I never felt like it was such a huge change from what I already knew.”

There was a hint of relief in his voice though, when he revealed that he has survived one of the traditions that Madrid’s top bargains should be involved in – displaying him in front of the media and fans on the field while showing off your ball skills.

“Haha no I shouldn’t have done that!” He’s grinning. “Even though I was training with the first team, I wasn’t 100 percent a first team player when I joined, I played matches for the second team at that time. I had a presentation, but it was just in front of the press and some pictures, so I didn’t have to To go in front of all the fans and do a ball game!”

Fans were out of power when he debuted. After spending his first season in the Spanish capital playing for Zinedine Zidane’s team Real Madrid Castilla (mainly the second series), he finally appeared for the first team on the last day of the 2014/15 season.

Real Madrid’s last game of the season was at home against Getafe, and with the hosts leading 5-3 with an hour left, Carlo Ancelotti called up Martin.

When he entered the field, he broke the club’s record as the youngest player in La Liga, at 16 and 157 days old. They went on to win 7-3.

“Yes, I replaced Ronaldo,” he asserts. “It was the last game of the season that I can remember, and I had been waiting for my first participation for a long time. I was really excited to play, and before the match they told me I was going.

“But then during the match we had two injuries, so we actually used two dives and I was nervous because I wouldn’t get my chance. But then they asked me to warm up, and I attended.

“The reception from the fans was good, and I think they were very interested in finally seeing me play as well, so I remember the reception was really good when I came.

“I came for Ronaldo, so it was all a little bit unreal. I was 16 and replacing the best player in the world at the time. It was all a little crazy, but when I was young I didn’t really think much about it Or I thought it was something different. Only now, looking back, did I realize how special it was, and that coming to Ronaldo made my first appearance even more special. When you are in that moment, you live it and enjoy it.”

Rather than indulging in the prospect of playing in one of the world’s great stadiums, Martin says it inspired him: “It takes a while to get used to, because it’s hard to hear what your teammates are saying, communication and things like. It was such a big thing at first, But still, I don’t remember thinking there was anything negative or more difficult to play in front of a huge audience. I thought it was cool, and I loved it, and I’ve always loved the feeling of that presence from the fans.

“Playing in an empty stadium is horrible, because you don’t get that adrenaline and that feeling of pressure, which I’ve always found to be positive pressure. I love that pressure of having to perform for people, enjoying them there. I need it.”

In the next three or four seasons, Martin acquired the bulk of his experience while playing on loan, first with Heerenveen and Vitesse in the Netherlands, then Real Sociedad again in La Liga, before joining Arsenal, also on loan, in January. 2020.

Those early years gave him the opportunity to experience different styles of the game and play against different fandoms. So is there any place in the world that I would have particularly enjoyed playing, because of the atmosphere they created?

“I have played for a few clubs in different countries as well and have been fortunate enough to play for some good fans. I enjoy playing here in particular, with our fans in the stadium. I enjoyed playing in Spain as well, at Real Sociedad the fans were brilliant too, and of course Madrid A very special place to play.

“But for the teams I’ve played against, I think Anfield has a very good atmosphere, they bring a lot of energy to their team, and among the places I’ve played here in England, that’s where I liked the most, from places far away from the Emirates. I’m fortunate with what It’s enough because I’ve played in a lot of good stadiums, and it’s hard to say which one is the best in terms of atmosphere.”

Despite this, the Premier League in general certainly has Martin’s support. Nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month for December, a year after he debuted for the Gunners, he was established in the league, and he says fans are a big part of that.

“The atmosphere in England is different than anywhere I’ve played,” he says. “I love the passion of the fans here – how much they care about football and their team, as well as the relationship they have with the club. There is a lot of tradition here in English football that I love and I think it’s a great place to play.”

The first 18 games of his career for the Gunners were played behind closed doors, but since we got back to playing in front of the fans, he’s scored four times in the league – including away with Burnley, Manchester United and Burnley. So what did he make of the welcome he got in away matches in England?

“Well it’s true that sometimes in stadiums with big atmospheres it can be more difficult. That’s the good thing about playing at home, you know the fans are going to support you and give you energy and make it more difficult for the other team. So for sure it can be playing far away. More difficult, when the fans push their team and whistle at you and all that kind of stuff.

“It can influence you in the game, but at the same time it is something that I really love about football. The fans are such a big part of the sport, you feel that energy when you play the game and that is really cool. There is nothing you will like when you feel that support from your fans.”

Martin says he felt that connection with Arsenal fans from the moment he joined last January – in fact, he was building a bond before he even put pen to paper.

“I’ve met a lot of fans when I’m out to eat or things like that,” he says.

“It’s easy to see that people are interested, that they really care about the team. Maybe it’s more on social media than in public – Arsenal are so big on social media!

“I got a lot of messages, especially when I was about to sign here. The fans were really pushing me to come in, texting me all the time, texting my family and everything! It was something new to me, sometimes it can be a lot, but overall I think it just shows their passion and their interest.”

Now part of the Arsenal family, sharing that passion and enjoying life in London, Martin is stable and ready to continue fulfilling this huge promise he first showed as a child at Drammen.

“I love life in London in general,” he said encouragingly. “There is a lot to do but it is also close to home so it is easy for me to travel to see my family, or have them visit me. I love it. When you are a footballer there is not much difference in your daily life whatever club you are in because everyone has Same procedures and schedules.

“So it’s the things off the pitch that make the difference, and it’s great to be in London, with so many places to go and things to do – I definitely feel at home here.”

Martin Odegaard
band number
December 17, 1998 / Drammen, Norway
National team
Arsenal for the first time
Against Manchester United (at home), Premier League, January 30, 2021 (draw 0-0).
the first goal
Against Olympiacos (A), European League, March 11, 2021 (Win 3-1).
Previous clubs
Stromgodset, Real Madrid, Heerenveen (on loan), Fetesse (on loan), Real Sociedad (on loan)

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