This generation of Belgian players is incredible. It is so rare for a country of our size to have so many incredible players at the same time [Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini and Thomas Vermaelen all play for the current Belgium team]. We are all similar ages, we are all quite young. I am the oldest in the team at twenty-six. There’s great prospects. Any legacy of this team will be based on the success that the team achieves together, so that is the big pressure. We’ve proved that a small country can produce great youth players. We have benefited a lot from the proximity of big footballing countries. A lot of the players have done at least some of their formation in Holland and France and abroad in England. But the talent comes from Belgium.
We realised we had to be a different type of team than other national teams. We can not afford to go back to our countries and play the untouchable superstars. We have to show that we are committed. We accept the challenge that we have that responsibility on us to help people.
The political situation in Belgium at the moment is so tense. The right thing to do is stay away from it. But, hey, this is our country and it would be ridiculous for us to stand for anything other than unity [Belgium is split in half between the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemish, who want to break away to form a new country]. We focus on what we have together rather than what is different.
I have a very strong relationship with Congo [Kompany’s father was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo]. I’m not half-Belgian and half-Congolese. I’m 100 percent Belgian and 100 percent Congolese. To have these two cultural backgrounds is like a great wealth. I don’t do the charity work because I need to make myself feel good [Kompany is FIFA’s Congo ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages charity]. It’s a priority in my life. It’s as much a priority as being a good footballer. Always has been. One enables me to do the other.
The one thing I remember most is winning the Premier League title. It was the last minute of the game [against QPR] when Sergio [Agüero] banged in that goal. It was probably, for any player or Manchester City supporter who was there to see it, the most incredible day of their lives. It was such a roller coaster of emotions, that season, that game.
I could never put a number on what that cup was worth.
I think sometimes our society thinks that the job [of a footballer] is a way to get material stuff.
When I was a ten-year-old boy, whenever I saw the future or dreamed about the future, I always saw myself lifting cups and playing in full stadiums. I can’t remember a single memory from my dreams that was about a car or a girl. It was never my motivation.
When I was a kid it was very common for us to be racially abused. But it’s more regulated in the first team than at grass-roots level. I don’t like to use the word “suffered” as I didn’t feel like the victim. I felt sorry for those portraying the acts of racism. I have seen it and it was revolting.
The great thing about England is that people do talk a lot about racism. If something happens it shocks the whole country and the whole country has an opinion. That is a sign that it’s not something that is accepted, so that is a great thing. The fact people talk about it shows that England is a lot more evolved than other places. But you can always improve.
The royal family of Abu Dhabi is genuinely very involved in what is going on at Manchester City. I guess the one thing that impressed me was the depth to which they decided to transform the club. It would have been very easy to come and buy the players and gain success that way. What I like about this is it goes the way I envision big projects. You go for the harder challenge, looking at the whole entire operation and to try and produce young, local players.
You’ll never be able to take away the fact people are only looking at the money side of things. But I look at something much deeper than that. Something that has a huge influence on the dynamic of the city and of the lives of young players.
It’s an incredible project and I’m proud to be part of it.
I don’t know yet what I’ll do after football. I doubt I’ll just be doing one thing. I like travel, so I’ll keep that in my life. What has given me balance in my life ever since I signed from Hamburg to Manchester City is all these other challenges that run parallel to my career and helped me to keep my focus on my job. [Kompany is studying part-time in Manchester for a master’s degree in business administration.] I would like that balance to stay in my life. The sky’s the limit. No restrictions.
I’m not scared of the end of my career. I know a lot of players who dread it. I’m not scared at all. I know exactly what my options will be. A very young career will begin once I’ve finished my old career in football.