Barça winger, Ibrahim Afellay, recently gave an in-depth interview to Sport, where the Dutch international spoke about how his life has changed since arriving in Catalunya in January. Explaining how he has managed to adapt to his new surroundings, as well as his new club and team-mates, Afellay showcased a relaxed and confident nature that should hold him in good stead for a fantastic future at Barça.
You can read the full translated interview below.
You arrived in December. Are you already adapted to your new life?
I feel very good. Barcelona is a fantastic city. My teammates help me a lot so I can feel at home. I am very happy.
Is it like you imagined it would be?
Not much different than I imagined. What I thought, is what I found: very nice people that try to help make you feel at home. Everything is perfect.
But it’s the first time you have left home, so it must not be easy after a living such a long time between Utrecht and Eindhoven.
I’ve always played in Holland and lived there with my family and I was with my people. And here, at the beginning, it was a little difficult because you miss your family and you know nothing. Neither the city nor the language, or the country. Everything was new to me when I arrived. But now I feel at home.
Finding a home and leaving the hotel must have been very helpful.
Sure. It is very difficult to feel at home living in a hotel. But now I have a home in Barcelona, and I’m happy.
What was harder, adapting on or off the field?
The beginnings are strange, you know nothing about anyone, and players do not know anything about you and you just get to work.
But you knew many players, at least in terms of seeing them play.
Yes everyone, but it is not the same as working every day. You need a little time, and little by little, the feeling gets better every day. The truth is that now I feel very comfortable within the team.
Does the dressing room help?
Yes, they are fantastic players who you only know from TV, but when you train every day with them you see how good they are. And not just as players, but also as people and that’s the most important thing.
In terms of strictly football, it’s hard to adapt when it comes to other styles, even though it’s the same game?
You have to adapt quickly, meet your colleagues and understand what they ask of you.
What did Pep ask of you?
Just to work hard, and to enjoy.
And do you?
Sure. When you work hard you can enjoy it because it lets you play your best game.
Arriving mid-season is tough. Do you think next year will be better?
Yes it’s hard, but this half year is still good, I feel good and the future is getting better and better and I hope so.
From the first day you have shown the same courage in the field that we witnessed in Eindhoven. Did the change of scenery not affect you?
I decided to be a footballer when I was little and since then, I always do what comes to mind. When you’re on the field you do not think about other people, you only think of what you want to do. If you think like that, you will not make mistakes. I have always done well.
Any differences in the clubs that you’ve found?
The way to play here is different, of course, but what mostly surprised me is the speed with which they played. When we lose the ball, we go and press, all very direct, and we all help.
Do you feel like a different player?
After these months at the club, I think I’m a much better player than before I arrived.
Is your versatility a myth or real? Do you prefer any particular position?
There is no preferred position, I can play in many of them and anywhere the coach needs me I’ll try to do my best. I feel good on the right, the left, in the midfield. Depends on the game. I know what I have to do is give everything for the team.
Does winning the Champions League help you to understand just what the club stands for?
Yes, it is more than a club, it’s a family, it is fantastic to be part of it. When you wear the Barça shirt you have to give everything. Each time, in every practice, every game. Because people are very supportive and you have to pay that all back with your energy.
What did you feel seeing the faces of the people in the streets?
When you see the people are behind you, you’re so happy. It’s a great feeling, great, to make people happy.
At PSV you also won many titles. How does this compare?
Both have great fans, but here are many more people. That is logical because this is a bigger club and has many more fans. It’s normal. I’m at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
You left when PSV were leading their league and then here you won the League and the Champions League. They must miss you in Eindhoven.
If they miss me or not is not something that I can say. It saddened me that they were not champions, but I can not do anything now. I wish them well in the future.
Are you a lucky man?
Pep rewarded you with a few minutes in the final of the Champions League.
The most important thing is we won the title. Manchester United are a fantastic team, but the club played a great game at a high level and we showed we were the best side.
Now that the season is over would you say it has been perfect?
Winning the Champions League was fantastic, it was my first time and it is an incredible feeling.
Do you like to watch football and follow other teams?
Not much, really. I prefer to focus on my own, on our team and playing.
How is your Spanish?
Little by little …
You arrived in January and yet have been spoken of as possibly moving on in the summer to raise funds for other transfers.
This is football and everyone speaks and says things, but I do not care, I’m very happy here and hope to be here a long time. I want to spend a lot of time at this club.
And what of the recent controversies with Real Madrid?
I do not want to talk about Real Madrid.