Freddy Yao Interview

Freddy Yao Interview

Freddy Yao was born in West Africa and moved to England at a young age. Football wasn’t really a huge interest of his until he fell in love with the sport in primary school. Now playing for Burnley, the young man has high hopes for his future and believes that with hard work and dedication he can makes his dreams become a reality. We caught up with the Concave athlete to discuss his football career to date and his targets for the future...

How did you get into football?

I wasn’t really a big fan of football, when I was young. Especially coming from Ivory Coast, where football is like a religion and everyone wants to play it. I wasn’t really keen until I came here to England. I was in primary school and one of my friends, who used to be at Chelsea, he was the one that actually inspired me to start playing football.

What age did you move to England then?

I came here when I was 6 years old. I was in year 2 and I couldn’t speak a word of English so the only way for me to be able to meet new people was to play football, cause that’s what all the boys were doing in primary school. I just started playing and I was good at it, despite never actually playing before.

What was your route into football from primary school?

I started playing in year 2, on the playground. My school team had an A team, which was mainly year 6 kids and then the B team for like the year 5’s. I was only in year 2 but I was playing then. I never knew what teams they were, at the time, I just thought normal boys playing football. The deputy head was the coach of the B team and he saw me play before asking me what year I was in and I couldn’t speak English so the rest of the boys just told him that I was one of the younger ones and he was so surprised because I was so big for a year 2 and he ended up asking me to come and play for the team and it all went from there. I remember I had a tournament when I was in year 4 at Catford Powerleague. There was like a little 5 a side thing there so we went in to play a tournament and ended up winning it and that’s where I got scouted by Millwall.

What was it like growing up in London?

Coming over when I was 6, there wasn’t really much I remember from Ivory Coast because I was still a young boy but the houses were different and everything was a lot clearer. In Africa it’s very hot and the sand and everything but here’s it’s just pavements, roads and concrete so it was different. Growing up in London was very… I wouldn’t say difficult... But it made me who I am now. I had to grow up in London at a time when there was a lot of crime going on so football was a way for me and my friends to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately some of them got mixed up between the street life and what they wanted to do and some of them got locked up so it was a learning curve for me, for sure.

From Millwall, what were the steps from there to get to the next level?

Well, it was really different to playing street football, when I was younger. On the streets it was fun and we were just competing to be the best amongst friends or being the best in the school. Going to an academy was completely different because you had to follow a complete training session that the coach put out. That wasn’t something I was brought up with, I used to just get the ball and do what I want. At the start I was struggling and probably playing the worst in training but when it got to the games I was on a different level. That’s no disrespect to the other players but I just played with my street football mentality so I wasn’t doing things that most people were doing. I was playing more freely, which was an advantage I had. When I was around 12, Millwall put me forward to play with the under 16’s and when I came on, I assisted a goal and I scored aswell so from then I was basically training with the 16’s, playing with the 16’s and they started working with me closely to help me learn the football rules and adapt it to my style of play.

Would you say there’s still elements of street in your game now?

I used to love dribbling the ball a lot. Doing skills… Flip flap people. I used to do a lot at Millwall. As I started growing I didn’t really have to do the skills because of the way I play so basically it was more about moving the ball. At times, if you watch me now, you can still see I’m a bit raw. I like to do things without thinking and I like to take risks. That’s what we used to do on the streets. When I play the game I play like I’m still playing street football just a bit more organised street football.

Have you always played central midfield?

No, I used to play as a striker but the reason why I now play centre midfield is because I used to drop too deep to get the ball. I remember in one of my games the coach told me that he doesn’t want me to drop past the halfway line and just stay as high as possible but I couldn’t do that for the whole game. At half time he swapped it round and put me in midfield and I struggled because it was too compact and I wasn’t used to it. He told me that’s what it feels like to play there and I told him I wouldn’t mind playing there in the future, I just needed to get used to it so in training I started playing in midfield and now I’m playing midfield since that whole incident and my time at Fulham.

What’s your strongest attribute then?

I’m a powerful player. I’m powerful and strong. I’m not slow, I’m quite quick for my size and height so I use that to my advantage to brush people off whilst I’m running. I do have quick feet so I can shift the ball and beat a player but I don’t really do that much cause now I basically control the game with my passing. If I had to beat a player with quick feet I am able to do that though. My strongest attribute is my stamina and power to break through in midfield or stop the opponent's play and counter attack.

What were your first thoughts when testing out Concave boots?

I remember my first pair was the Quantum. I had the white and green one and I also had an all black pair. At the start they were new to me and I didn’t know how they were gonna fit and if they were going to suit my style of play and a few of the boys questioned them in the changing rooms so I told them about the brand but a lot of them didn’t kind of agree with the fact I was wearing Concave. I remember going out in training and everyone was looking at my feet because I was the only one wearing something different. Everyone else had their Nike’s and adidas boots on so I was the only one with something different. I remember training and we started doing passing drills and the boot just felt nice. From there on, all the boys started looking at the boots and some of them wanted to try them on after training and I told them there’s more to come from Concave.

How well do you feel the technology works?

We played against Watford and I wore the Quantum. I had the ball between the centre circle and the box and it basically came to me after they tried to make a clearance and I took a touch and I shot from that far out and the ball just dipped and the power I got on the ball, the keeper just couldn’t save it. I think my shooting in the boots has improved and I’ve got more accuracy with it. I feel like I generate more power from the Quantum and it reflects my kind of game… That power and aggression! The boots literally suit me perfect!

So you’ll be making the switch from Quantum to Aura, what are your thoughts on the new boot?

They look amazing. Like actually top notch and I’m looking forward to wearing them so I’ll just have to wait until they arrive at the training ground and I get my package.

What are your goals for this season?

My goal for this season is to get my international call up for my national team, Ivory Coast. Whether that be under 19’s or 20’s, I’m working to getting that call up and club level, I’m trying to break through and get some first team experience. If that’s at Burnley or in January, where I may go out on loan to play first team and get some experience. That’s it, I just want to show my manager, Sean Dyche, that I’m able to play first team football. So just keep working hard on myself and keep doing my best.

What do you get up to outside of football?

Outside of football I like to chill and research things. I like business so I like to create new things and look at businesses to see a way that I can move forward if football wasn’t there or after football, even whilst playing football in fact, by investing somewhere or creating a brand. Away from that you could say I’m a lazy guy cause I like to chill on the sofa and watch movies.

Favourite movie and TV show?

I like action films and I’m a big fan of Marvel. So Captain America, Iron Man and I’m especially looking forward to Black Panther coming out next year. When it comes to TV shows, I’m a big fan of soaps and I actually like Hollyoaks. It’s a bit strange but I watch it when I come back from training and it chills me out.

Do you have any superstitions?

The night before I like to be alone and have no distractions, chill out and relax. The morning of the game I just wake up and do what I normally do, pray and then watch some motivational videos, then as I make my way to the game I’ll listen to some gospel music. Before a game I don’t like to be aggressive, I like to be calm. The calmer I am before a game, the better I perform. But when I do step on the pitch I become aggressive.

Any advice to any ballers on the come up?

I would just say, whatever comes in your way, whatever you get told, however you feel and however people compare you to other players, don’t let it affect you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and just focus on you. Everyone has different abilities so focus on yours, work on yourself and most importantly enjoy it. At the end of the day, football’s a game. It’s a game that everyone loves and plays so we shouldn’t think of it like a job and just enjoy it as much as possible. Be consistent and disciplined, with whatever you do, whether it be food, drink, training, everything. Be disciplined and believe that you’re good enough despite what anyone else says.

Writen by Concave @ 21/12/2016 04:19

  • Freddy Yao
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