Creative Soccer Culture

Gini Wijnaldum on adidas, Fashion & School Boy Debuts

Rewind ten years and Gini Wijnaldum had just made his debut for Feyenoord at the tender age of 16 years and 148 days. Back to the current day and he's stood in the adidas Oxford Street Store in London as an established international and Premier League playmaker.

As a busy summer flows into a frantic start to the season with club and country, Wijnaldum takes us back to the start to remember his Feyenoord debut and mixing school life with playing at the top of the Eredivisie. It was that rapid start to his career that provided Wijnaldum with a maturity that has enabled him to miss just three league games in the past three seasons under three different managers. It's no surprise he was keen for a rest this summer...

Gini, how was your summer, did you have a good break?

I had a really good break thanks. I went on vacation with my girlfriend and my children and after that I went away with my cousin and my friends. To be fair I really needed it because we had a long season and I played almost every game so I definitely needed the time away.

You went to Miami, right?

I was in Dubai and then Suriname which is the country where my parents are from and then after that I went to Dubai, then Miami, yeah.

Is it important for you to switch off from football?

Yeah, of course. I think a vacation is one of the most important things for a sportsperson,  especially if you’ve had a real busy season. I played a lot of games, not only with Liverpool but with the Netherlands too and at the end of the season your body is crying out for a rest. You need a vacation to rest but also to draw a line under the season and begin to prepare for the next one. 

Your brother’s out in the States with Philadelphia Union. Did you see him?

No, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see him.

How’s he getting on out there?

He likes it there. He says it’s different to Europe and in Holland and Germany where he was playing previously, but he likes playing there and he likes the lifestyle too.

That whole American way of life. Places like Miami and LA. Can you see yourself out there one day?

No. No, I don't think so anyway. When I get older and think about retiring I don't think I’d want a lifestyle like that. I want an easy life, to chill.


You grew up in Rotterdam. How has growing up in that district helped shape your football career? 

It helped me a lot. It helped me to fight for myself and help myself in difficult situations. To be fair I had a great childhood there. I grew up with my Grandma and she was disciplined but fair. If she saw things were going well then she’d give me a lot of freedom. She’d always say “I don’t want you to be a criminal” that’s the only thing, she wanted me to finish my school. Her first thought wasn’t me becoming a professional footballer player, it was to keep me off the street and concentrate hard at school.

Was there a moment growing up when you realised that you were naturally better than other kids your age at football?

From the moment I was able to play football I was going to give it everything. I knew I was a quick learner and that I was willing to learn. To be fair when I started football I wasn’t the best, I was one of the worst! But I developed because I learned quick.

You made your debut at 16. How long ago does that feel now?

A really long time ago! That was ten years ago already. Time flies in football, seasons go so fast. I was 16 and still at school when I made my Feyenoord debut but I found it easy to stay level-headed as I had a lot of older players around me in the team, so that made it more fun to go to school, to hang out with people who were my age. It was easier for me be myself around my friends at school than with my teammates who were much older than me.

It helped me to have that balance, to listen and learn from the older players but also to go back to school and hang around with people from generation. It was quite hard though because I’d have to train and then I’d be tired but then I still had to go to school, when all I wanted to do was go home and sleep.

How many days before your debut did you know you were going to play?

We were playing on the Sunday and on the Tuesday the manager Erwin Koeman, who’s now Assistant Manager at Everton, called me into his office. It was already a strange week because normally I’d only train on a Wednesday with the first team but I was told I had to train on Monday too. I told them that I couldn’t because I had to go to school. 

The school agreed to it and I was training with the first eleven on Monday, so I knew maybe I had a shot at playing. On the Tuesday he called me into his office and told me I was playing on Sunday. I had four days to prepare so I had a lot of time to think about it and be ready!


Did you tell your friends at school that you were starting?

I wanted to but I promised my coach that I would keep it to myself. He said I could tell my Grandma and my agent but I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone else. Plus, it was fun to keep it as a surprise. 

What are your standout moments from that debut season?

You know, normally when players play at that age they are nervous but I had the feeling of excitement, that I was on the stage where I wanted to be. I wasn’t nervous at all I just wanted to give it everything I had and take the opportunity. I entered the game with no pressure and just enjoyed the crowd and the game. We actually lost 4-0 but I played a good game! I felt that a gave a good impression of myself.

After Feyenoord you moved to PSV. How proudly do you look back on your time in Eindhoven?

I’m really proud of my time at PSV. I had everything in my time there. I had good moments, bad moments,really good moments and really bad moments. That made me the player that I am. You learn a lot when things are going badly and you have to show character. Every time things were going badly I fought to put it right and it worked out well. In my last season I captained the team to their first league title in seven years, so it ended with a reward.

Is this season a bit of a milestone in your career? That you’re ready to push on and achieve big success with club and country?

To be fair I don’t think like that anymore. I just want to enjoy myself and trust the performances will come with that. I always set myself very high standards and to be important for the team. The pressure I put on myself now is more the pressure to enjoy. When I play with that mindset I play with freedom and play to my potential. 

Are you a player that takes bad results home with you?

You know, it’s difficult. You try to leave them at the club but you always take them home with you. Football is your life. You can say you leave it at the club but it’s always with you. People remind you of things. You can try to leave it at the club but then you’ll be at the supermarket and someone will say “hey yesterday was not a good day” or something so it’s hard not to think about it.


What are the biggest differences between a first season at a club and a second season at a club?

At the moment it’s little difficult to say as this is the beginning of my second season. I’ll be able to tell you more at the end of this season, but I think there are a number of factors on your first season. You could arrive for big money so fans expect quick results but on the other hand people say it’s your first season so you need time to adapt and settle in. The second year probably brings a bit more expectation.

Moving away from football, you’ve got some bold outfits. What’s your style when it comes to fashion?

Fashion? I like everything! I can go to a cheap shop and buy things or I can go to an expensive shop and buy things. I don’t really have one particular fashion style. If I like something I’ll wear it, but Gucci is my favourite fashion brand right now.

On the pitch you’re wearing the adidas Nemeziz boots. Do you think they’re good reflection of your style?

Yeah, I’m a player that likes to dribble but I’m an all-round player too. I like to defend and play box-to-box. A lot of technical players are wearing the Nemeziz, like Roberto Firmino and Leo Messi and it works for me. I was wearing the ACE boots last season and then they gave me the Nemeziz to test and I was impressed with the design of the Nemeziz and it felt instantly comfortable.

Shop the adidas Nemeziz collection at

Photography by Ossi Piispanen for SoccerBible.


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