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One on One: Yannick Bolasie on wearing No.11, playing for burgers, Blues, star performer in training and Usain Bolt

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One on One: Yannick Bolasie on wearing No.11, playing for burgers, Blues, star performer in training and Usain Bolt

We spoke to Yannick Bolasie this week as he settles into life as a Villan.

Check out his answers to a host of questions below.

Who was your sporting hero as a kid growing up – who did you want to be?

I definitely wanted to be one of the Brazilian football icons – Ronaldo or Ronaldinho. 

They just had genius in their feet – supremely talented – just wonderful, wonderful players. 

I loved the Czech star Paolo Nedved too – what a player he was, too.

You’ve taken No.11 at Aston Villa – Gabby Agbonlahor’s old number – is the shirt important to you?

Not especially, no. 

I am aware that Gabby Agbonlahor wore it for years here.

I have had No.7, No.10, No.14, No.17. No.19, No.26, No.36 over the years in club football but I do wear No.11 with my national side, DR Congo.

Also, I feel generally No.11 is seen as a number that a winger would wear so it fits quite nicely in that respect.

BolasieInterview4You’ve been at Aston Villa a few weeks now – what has surprised you the most about the club?

Villa Park, without question.

I knew it was one of the famous and historic grounds in football, I’d like to think everyone is aware of that.

But just the scale of it all, I suppose, more than anything. 

I can honestly say you don’t pick up on that at any ground particularly when you’re an away player but, before I signed on loan, I visited the stadium when it was empty and looked around. 

I had such a good feeling for it. I was out in the stadium bowl and just thought ‘wow’. 

I can already imagine flying up and down the wing in the claret and blue.

What did you make of the #BolasieAnnounced video – and does it make you smile when you see so many fans so happy with your arrival?

I loved it! It makes me smile that fans were pleased that I came here. It genuinely gives me confidence. 

Also, I always fight hard for any team I play in, but it actually makes me want to fight even more knowing that I have love from the stands. 

It’s a great feeling. I’d like to say ‘thank you’. 

Best player you’ve seen in training so far?

I’ll go for three.

I knew all about Jack Grealish before I joined and he hasn’t disappointed. 

I love Jonathan Kodjia. He is a gifted player. 

Anwar El Ghazi has impressed me, also, since he joined.

But seeing how Jack glides past people – it’s effortless for him. He’s a great player.

HuttonandBolasieWhen you played Aston Villa in the past, was there a player you enjoyed a battle with?

Alan Hutton!

Hutts was always a good challenge. I knew that before every game when I faced Aston Villa.

It was always a good battle and I knew I had to be on my game.

The good battle comes from his pace. I’d like to think that’s one of my assets and it’s one of his too. 

To be fair, he’s pretty strong as well so it was always one to look forward to.

Is it true they paid you in burgers for goals at Hillingdon? 

Yes, that’s absolutely true. 

I wasn’t a pro at the time. I was semi-pro. I just enjoyed playing football. 

That’s just how things happened during that period in my career.

Artboard Bolasie 1What was it like playing in the Premier League in Malta – and why did you move there? 

My cousin was meant to go but he got injured. 

His agent came and watched me play for Hillingdon. 

He decided that I was good enough to go out there.

It wasn’t straightforward. Their league is protected. They are only allowed three players from abroad. 

I was battling with other trialists who were probably more experienced than me at the time, for sure.

I was young going over there. For me to sign at the time was definitely a massive achievement. There’s not a lot of players who go over there when they are 18.

Today we’re here and, if I’m honest, I didn’t see all this coming. I just love the game so much and I just wanted to play at some sort of level.

How much are you relishing the Blues derby – and have the lads told you about the ferocity of it?

Yes, of course. But to be honest, I don’t like to get too far ahead of myself. My focus is all on the next match. 

Obviously I have watched it on TV before and it’s looks unbelievably lively. 

I saw the last match where Albert Adomah scored the first goal. It was really going off – I like that. Big atmospheres. Big occasions.

At that moment, though, I have only just joined Aston Villa. I want to get my fitness right up and start performing for this club.

BolasieInterview5What were your memories of playing alongside Mile Jedinak at Crystal Palace?

He’s such a good guy.

He’s a captain, a leader – everything. 

He had a great attitude – he demonstrated how things should be around a Training Ground.

He brought the team together. He’s a proper man and was a big catalyst in us being promoted. 

At the start of that season, we were bottom of the league after four games – four losses. We then went on a run and stayed in the top six and went up through the play-offs. 

That was amazing, to be fair.

At Everton, you played alongside Gareth Barry, what were your impressions of him?

What a great player! I think he’s so underrated. 

He controls the game, dictates the tempo, can see a pass. As a winger, he was a dream to play alongside to be honest.

He’s played so many games in the Premier League. He never ever seems to give the ball away. Superb.

BolasieInterview1You joined alongside fellow winger, Anwar El Ghazi, what are your initial impressions?

He’s got very good ability.

I will be looking forward to linking up with all the players here because there’s real quality in the ranks.

There’s good competition for places, that’s no doubt and all of us have to be on our toes and firing.

Talk to us about your friendship with Usain Bolt?

I know people who know him well.

I played one game with him – it was just a kick-around in the park with me and my friends.

When you look at sporting icons, he’s right at the top. He puts in the work.

I’ve got to be honest, when you see him on the pitch and you sense that he’s ready to accelerate off, you’re almost trying to start off already.

BolasieRothUtd

Tell us about your love of grime music – you used to be an MC?

I still do a bit.

With the grime music, it’s been all the way through for me, really. I haven’t stopped doing it. I actually enjoy it more and more.

It started at school. It was either that or playing football in the playground. When the balls got confiscated, everyone would start freestyling. 

That’s how I got into it, really. I was just watching. I think when you’re watching something and everyone is participating, you want to get involved. 

I couldn’t at that time. But I ended up doing it and getting better, which is great.

Paul Brown
By @paulbrownavfc 19th September 2018