Fulham and Norway captain Brede Hangeland has made it to the top of the game, but he never forgets where he comes from, as Club Website editor Dan Pope found out
I get afforded a rare opportunity as I wait to chat to Brede Hangeland - the chance to learn from a group of nine- and 10-year-olds.
We're in the hall at St Mary's RC Primary School in Wimbledon and the Fulham captain is doing a quick Q&A with the Year Four and Five pupils before personally handing over their new football kit, donated to the school as part of the Premier League Players' Kit Scheme.
As he fends off a series of probing questions - on his captaincy, his goalscoring record, his recent red card against Sunderland and who his best friends are in the Fulham team - I'm learning on two fronts.
Not only do I get to pick up a few tips from these budding young football journos, but listening to Hangeland answer their questions gives a great insight into his character before we've even spoken.
Fulham and the Premier League couldn't have chosen a better ambassador to represent them at this event. Without being patronising, his answers to the kids convey all the right messages about working hard, enjoying your football and looking out for your team mates. He is every inch the club captain.
Hangelend didn't turn professional until the age of 19 and, as we chat, I wonder how much his grounded approach to football is because he learned much of his trade within the game's amateur ranks.
But you don't need a professional academy to have a professional approach to the game, as we find out as we take Brede Hangeland back to his roots.
Dan Pope: What is the grassroots football setup like in Norway?
Brede Hangeland: You play for your local club. There’s no real selection as such to go to a professional teams or academies before you reach maybe 17, 18 or 19. No kids get picked when they are seven or anything like that.
So you play with your local team and with your mates from your local neighbourhood. That’s what I did. I played for Vidar - a club that was a stone’s throw from my parents’ house - from the age of six until 19 when I went to Viking, the big club in Stavanger, where I became a professional.
DP: Tell us a bit about Vidar and your start in the game.
BH: It was a really good upbringing on the pitch and also off the pitch. It was a very good environment, good people, good friends. I didn’t know obviously from a young age that I’d make a living out of being a footballer, but I always enjoyed it. That was the main thing. We always trained quite hard and we quite were a good team.
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