Creative Soccer Culture

Miguel Azeez Talks The Journey So Far And Mindful Determination

At just eighteen years of age, Miguel Azeez is moving at monumental pace. A debut made in the Europa League and a rise that sees him stride closer and closer to the Arsenal first team, it took just a matter of minutes for us to realise we were speaking to someone supremely special. All eyes on the elite, it's an inspired look ahead to a new season.

Flying on the shoulder while he stocks up the wardrobe at the Adidas London Flagship Store, it's a considered look from this Arsenal break-through talent. Talking influences and inspiration, the importance on focused energy and how he is setting global standards for himself, Miguel is making mindful moves in search for success with both club and country.

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Where did you first fall in love with football Miguel and can you tell us what those early days were like for you? Have you been obsessed from day one?

Yeah I have. Ever since I could kick a ball it was in me. I come from a household that loves football. We’d always be playing, always talking about it - it was part of my life. From as early as I can remember, there was always a ball in my house.

What’s it been like to develop and grow at a club like Arsenal?

For me, I think Arsenal are the best club in the world. So to be part of the club, to play there and to go through the experience of it all, it’s a dream. Especially listening to great coaches and great players over the years, it’s always meant there’s a lot of motivation around. You get inspired from just being at the club but to get all the knowledge from these people has been special. They set such high values and its so important being in an environment where everyone has a similar mindset to you. It keeps you striving for more.

How would you describe your own mindset?

For me, I’m very self-driven, I always have goals that I want to achieve. I think my mind is probably my strongest asset. For me, I want to be the best player in the world so I’m always thinking about how I can improve and what more I can be doing to make me the best player in the world. Whether that’s training or learning more about my game, I always feel like I have to do things that can help me achieve my goals. I genuinely want to be the best player in the world and feel like I have the mindset to get where I want to go. I think you have to use your mind as an asset and it’s by realising its strength that I think we can all go after the things we’re looking to achieve.

When did you realise your mind could be such a weapon in that way?

Probably since I was young. I don’t think I thought about it so much when I was younger but I’ve always been someone that thinks about things a lot so it’s kind of natural for me. It’s ingrained in me to be driven and to want to be the best. 

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Do you read about or study other people who have been successful in life? Do you look for inspiration in that way?

I do. People that come to mind are Ronaldo and Lewis Hamilton - they have that mindset that is all about them doing everything they can to be the best in all that they do. In whatever they do, even if it's table tennis - I want to be the best in all aspects of life. I think it’s good to study people who have that similar mindset. It’s important to listen and learn. From them, you can take things from their lives into yours. People like Michael Jackson, I’m a big fan of his music - he changed the way the whole world thought about music. Those three guys and their careers have been full of success.

You have to be ruthless to make it as a player don’t you…

You really do. You need to cut off those relationships that don’t share your vision. You need to surround yourself with good people.

How would you describe your journey in football - has it been smooth? Have you faced challenges along the way

There’s been so many ups and downs. Whether that’s managers not believing in you, players not having the same attitude as you, the put downs you get along the way - there’s a lot of challenges. But going back to the mindset, it’s all about how you handle those things for me. Having good people around you in your family and friends, it’s so important. Those people will keep you grounded and make sure you keep working towards your dreams. You have to remember that at all times.

You mentioned the importance of strong relationships. Football can be cruel in the way very few make it. How have you handled seeing people fall away from the game? Has that driven you?

It’s not nice to see people fall away but then you have to think about yourself and your career. You have to persistently work - you can’t take your foot off the gas. In this game, there will always be someone that is chasing you or someone that is trying to overtake you. So you have to keep focused on those goals, keep searching forwards and reaching for what you want to achieve. You can empathise with other people but you also have to keep that focus on yourself. It’s harsh but you’re working hard to leave players who are not at your level behind you. I feel like you can only do so much to help others but I try. Especially when I see people who are feeling a bit tired of it, I try to influence them in a positive way. It’s good to have good friends who can support you.

Have you got friends who are also as driven as you? You come across as a creative guy - are they similar in that sense?

I keep my circle of friends close. I think we all share that mindset. Probably show it in different ways but we’re all striving to achieve. We all push each other in our own ways. We have similar beliefs which helps. I can learn from my friends and they can learn from me - we all help each other.

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Watching England have such success this summer, how much of a carrot is that to show the levels you want to get to?

Yeah for sure. When you see players getting to that level, achieving all that they have, it’s another step that shows everything is real and achievable. All those players would have gone through similar battles that I have and had to work hard in the same way. We would have been on similar paths and it shows that if you put the work in, you can achieve. I want to get to that level, get on that pitch and be on those occasions.

Getting this close to the first team, being involved and experiencing all you have so far - how hungry does that make you, to make the next step?

It gives me a lot of motivation. You see them day in and day out and see the level they produce. It makes you think that if I can get to that level, perhaps even surpass that level, then I can compete on every level. Getting so close, it’s driven me to want to be in there and involved all the time. I want to do everything I possibly can to get to that level.

What players have set the standard for you and you’ve thought “their professionalism, their approach, that’s where I want to be”?

Last season, David Luiz was such a good mentor for me. He’s won so many titles throughout his career. Even the mindset he had in training - he’d always be there early doing the extra stuff. He’d stay late and do extra gym too. That gave me a reality - if he’s doing that then I need to do more and I need to do what he’s doing to hit those levels. He was a really good mentor.

What has surprised you about what football is really like behind the scenes? Is it different to how you thought it might be?

I never actually expected all the media stuff. When you look at footballers, the outside world will just think it’s just go to training then play on the weekend. But there’s a whole world around football. Interviews, photoshoots - all that stuff is not part of the lifestyle and it comes with the game. We grow up trying to be the best on the pitch we can and then need to learn about the off pitch elements too. It’s no bad thing - it just comes as a surprise. I actually really enjoy that side of being a football player. It was another eye opener.

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You have a strong look, how much do you like to express yourself through what you wear?

Yeah naturally I think we all want people to think of us in the best way. I try and do things in the most genuine way though. It’s so important to be yourself ultimately. I want to do things that work for me, not because other people want me to do them, you know? So with what I wear and that kind of thing, it’s about showing who I am, being who I am and hopefully that helps people feel comfortable in showing who they are and what they’re about.

When adidas come calling and a deal gets done there - that’s got to be a sign that says you’re doing the right things?

It’s a great honour. Adidas is an enormous brand and to be part of that set up means a lot. For me, I just want to represent the brand in the best way I can. I love what they do and what they stand for. I love how they collaborate with other people outside of the sporting world. Humanrace with Pharrell, Y-3, all that kind of stuff is really me. For me I like to take influences from outside of my bubble and bring them to my world. If I can take snippets of style from great people and blend them in the way that works for me then that will only help me explore that as an interest more. That’s kind of me as a person.

Seeing the success of England this summer, has that made you want to climb up the ranks of the England squad even more?

Oh for sure. The next aim is the World Cup. I’d love to have a great season with Arsenal and be knocking on the door. I’ve just got to do everything I can to be in the best position possible with all eyes on the next tournament. Just watching them, it’s just such a good motivation for me.

A long way off but how much do you think about the type of player you want to be known as? How much do you want to impress and entertain?

As the best player. I want to be known as the best player. It’s not ego, it’s just my ambition. I just want to be someone who can help others as well as do what I can do, best. I want to help all those around me perform too. If we’re all striving to be the best and we can help each other get there then we’re all going to end up in a good place.

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