Tell us what it was like growing up and playing football in Belgium?
“Yeah it was nice, that’s all I really wanted to do since I was young. Going to school was not my favourite thing, but I kind of had to do it for my parents as they wanted me to have a degree. Apart from that, I was always busy with football and trying to pursue a career as a professional player. When I was quite young, I had the pleasure of achieving that dream and at fifteen or sixteen it was apparent I was going to make it and I was really happy about that. To stay in football is hard, but I’ve had to work hard at it because it’s not easy.”
You had a brief stint in Germany, what did you learn from your time there?
“I was eighteen years at the time and I was left alone in a new country. My family would come over as much as possible but it wasn’t easy. I learned a lot by hanging out with experienced players. I really tried to learn from them, I was still young when I left but I think that was good for me.”
You then joined Club Brugge, what was your highlight there?
“There has been a number of highlights because we had some great periods.
The only downside was that we couldn’t celebrate a league or cup win, so that’s a disappointment but I had some great times there. For me, it was the first time I really played at the highest level and I’m very thankful for that.”
You’re now playing in the Premier League with Norwich City. How did that move come about?
“I was about to move from Brugge and a couple of times, the move never happened because of a few reasons. Then the last time, there were a few teams who were interested in me and Norwich City were amongst them. Once I heard that, I was keen to leave Brugge for Norwich. I spoke to them and I was happy. Obviously we were in the Championship at that point, but 6 months later, we celebrated going to Premier League through the play-offs which was amazing.”
Best thing about the Premier League?
“For me, it is one of the best leagues in the world, if not the best. To be on the same pitch with the best players in the world and compete with them is a great achievement.
That’s the kind of thing you dream of when you’re younger. It’s a dream come true for me to play in the Premier League and the more I play, the more it will become normal. I hope to play as much as possible and become better and improve my game.”
Best player you’ve ever played with and why?
“I’ve played with a lot of good players. When I was younger, I played with Vincent Kompany, we were on the same team together.
There’s also, Carlos Bacca who is doing really well. Sometimes it’s not always the players who go the furthest or play at the best level, but these guys were great.”
What was it like playing in the 2012 Olympics with Belgium?
“It was just crazy to be a part of such a big event. It was great to see everything within the camp from close by. As a team, we did really well, we finished 4th after losing the 3rd and 4th play-off. It was just a great experience with all the travelling and living in the Olympic Village, we had a great group and it was just so nice.”
How are you enjoying life at Norwich City?
“It’s had it’s ups and downs. When I arrived I had an injury which was hard. But this season, it’s going pretty well for me. It’s not been easy to get into the team, at first I was injured and then we changed manager but I’ve been given a chance to play and when I’ve come in I have played well. It’s nice for me to show the Norwich fans they can count on me. It’s a tough league with tough games but I’m just focused on staying in the Premier League with Norwich.”
How did you become a Christian?
“To be honest with you, it’s just been something I’ve grown up with since I was born. I’ve also been baptised. Since a young age we’ve had God in our lives as a family and that’s how we’ve functioned at home.”
Do you feel you have to behave in a certain way on the pitch?
“You know, you should never go on the pitch and go and mess up and hurt anybody on purpose, but emotions can get the better of you at times. When I go on the pitch I don’t think, ‘I’m a Christian, I have to be nice to everybody’, I just go and play and try and do my best.”
How does your faith impact your football career?
“It’s what I believe, it’s everything. When I have good moments, I thank God and when I have bad moments, I ask God to help me through.
In football, it can be a hard life because when things go wrong, you’re on your own but for me, I know that God is with me and that’s a big help. It can really help knowing that there is always someone by your side.”
Do you speak with any of your team-mates at Norwich or Belgium about your faith?
“It’s not really a subject we talk about. Obviously those guys who believe will mention it, but it’s not something we normally bring up.”
Favourite Bible verse?
“On my boots I have “With God as my leader” in Latin which is good. I also like Philippians 4 verse 13 which says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’, I like that one.”
Do you see football as a form of worship and why?
“I don’t know; I suppose I’ve never really thought of it like. It’s clear that everybody comes into the world with a mission and a purpose. People who have God’s talent as footballers have a platform to make God’s voice heard and are able to do what they can for him. With our job, we have a big voice and people can see what we are doing and saying. As Christians we have a great platform to reach others.”
Do you pray before a game and would you say prayer helps performance?
“I pray before the game in the morning, in the dressing room and on the pitch. I’d never pray for God to let us win, even the other team will have Christians and God won’t know what to do! I just pray for God to look after all the players and keep us safe and that he can be with us on the pitch through his spirit. If we keep our faith in him, then we can do anything through him.”