Devils and his post-career, Marouane Fellaini confides: “When I started, the national team didn't attract anyone anymore”

Everyone remembers where they were when Marouane Fellaini fired his angry header against Japan on July 2, 2018 in the last 16 of the World Cup. “This goal will go down in history, but I prefer to remember the work of the team”, says, modestly, our man. In his 18-year career, Marouane Fellaini participated in the creation of the famous golden generation (87 games, 18 goals and four assists). Now retired, the Big Fella looks back on his career with the national team, and also talks about the rest of his career, off the field.

Young retiree, Marouane Fellaini confides exclusively to DH: “From a supermarket car park to two World Cups, I can be proud of myself”

Marouan, you had a great adventure with the Red Devils but it could have been written with the Lions of Atlas.

“No, because Belgium arrived faster than Morocco. Vandereycken, the manager at the time, wanted me absolutely as did Michel Preud'homme who did everything to ensure that I chose Belgium. We are talking about the legend of Belgian football, my former coach. How could I say no?”

Rumor has it that at the time, Lucien D'Onofrio wasn't too keen on the idea that you could play in CAN.

”(Smiles) Today it is no longer a problem, but before it was different.”

The beginnings are not gloriousyou are playing in front of 10,000-15,000 spectators at the Roi Baudouin stadium and you are losing.

“You're good in terms of the number of fans, eh (laughs). The national team no longer attracted anyone, neither fans nor individual players. I wanted, I was hungry. Later, at that time, every time you joined the national team, it was for defeat. Mentally, it was not easy for everyone to cope. I still remember the 5-0 we won in Spain in 2009 or the 1-4 against Morocco in a friendly a few months before. But these complicated moments forged our generation.”

BRUSSELS, 07/02/2007 SPORT / VOETBALL / FOOTBALL / VRIENDSCHAPPELIJKE INTERLAND BELGIè – CZECH REPUBLIC / FRIENDLY MATCH BELGIUM – CZECH REPUBLIC / FELLAINI – POLAK / PICTURE BY JIMMY BOLCINA & NICO VEREECKEN OPYRIGHT PHOTO NEWS

You have come a long way to this semi-final of the World Cup against France, which will haunt us for a long time.

“I can tell you that the 1-4 defeat at home against Morocco, whom I still congratulate for their appearance at the World Cup, in front of 10,000 people in a friendly match, is nothing compared to what we experienced in Russia. It came down to detail. We're talking about an angle. Didn't France play like world champions that night? But let's stop with that stupid reasoning. We don't care how. I would sign with both hands to experience such a favorable scenario.”

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Criticize France? I would sign with both hands to win like that!

You played in two world championships, which gave you the most pleasure?

Ah Brazil, the country of football. There was something. We were younger, less experienced and again against Argentina it came down to one detail. We camped in their camp for the last quarter of an hour, but without success. “

You scored two goals at the World Cup, two headers that will forever remain in the history of Belgian football.

“I'm not aware of it while I'm writing them down, but it's clear that these are the two goals we're standing up for, either in 2014 or 2018. Will we still be talking about them in 30 years? Maybe, but it's a team we'll still be talking about.”

In 2014, Fellaini equalized against Algeria to launch the Devils World Cup. ©News photo

Just as we will talk for a long time this elimination against Wales at Euro 2016.

“It was difficult. I'm not saying it's the coach's fault, but we were leading 1:0, and we didn't want the second, then the third goal, we should have been more calm and closed the job. For me, that's what lost us that night. That is obviously a huge disappointment.”

The term golden generation, Does she annoy you?

“Well, that's it, it's okay, that's in the past. We finished third in the World Cup, we, Belgium, a small country of 11 million inhabitants. Don't you think that's nice? We played against nations, like Brazil, who had a lot of pressure on their shoulders. We were criticized, seriously, we could only say thank you. Afterwards, we replayed the game, saying to ourselves: Oh, that Umtiti headed, that ball went in, yes, yes. But if they are crap (sic). What we did is beautiful and we have to respect that, period!”

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Do they blame us for the 2018 semi-finals? We, a small country of 11 million inhabitants? You have to stay serious.

Not winning anything with this generation, isn't that a regret?

” No, as I said, those who win trophies are the great footballing nations who are experienced in this exercise. We were part of the big ones with very great players who played and still play in the best clubs in the world. We can only rejoice.”

In fact, with Vincent Kompany, you were the first Belgians to settle permanently in England.

“I followed Vincent two weeks later (laughs). How many Belgians have left their mark on Premier League history since then? And it is a source of pride for the country. Benteke, Hazard, De Bruyne, Dembele, Vertonghen and so on! It also means that we are doing well in Belgium.”

Fellaini and Kompany were the first Belgians to establish themselves permanently in the English championship. ©AP

Eden Hazard, he's your friend, but he's also the best player you've played with?

“Certainly yes. Eden, it was enough to give him the ball and tell him: come on, win us the game. What do we care if he didn't train well during the week? Seriously, all the reviews he got were ridiculous. This is what made Eden beautiful. I always had to prepare thoroughly, do bodybuilding, the gym, recover. It was my routine. He, his, should have enjoyed his loved ones, his children and life. That's how he performed best. Was it because of his lifestyle that he didn't succeed at Real Madrid? No, that's bad luck. Tell me why what worked for years at Chelsea suddenly stopped working in Spain? This injury completely destroyed him. Eden's criticism hurt me more than him. I'm just saying: thank you for everything, Eden.”

Marouane Fellaini was touched by the criticism Eden Hazard was exposed to. ©Christophe Licoppe

The criticism of Eden and his way of life hurt me more than him.

There aren't many survivors of this golden generation left today, but we can still count on Kevin De Bruyne at the top of his game.

“Kevin, he's got an arm instead of a leg, it's no more complicated than that. He is the best in the world in his position. What a magnificent career he's had, hats off to him. We can't forget Romelu Lukaku either.”

Does the current generation instill confidence in you?

“Yes, but please stop comparing them to the old ones. Who will you compare Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to? It does not make sense. Let them grow like us, we were able to grow when we started.”

His post-career: “I am entering sports management and consulting”

Back to you, now that you've hung up the phone, what will your daily life be like?

“Above all, I will enjoy my loved ones. I am based in Dubai and will be splitting my time between the Emirates and China to play my role as a management consultant and sports consultant. I want to transfer my experience and my experience to these clubs. I learned management in China and I like it. Why should I not deepen my knowledge in the future by obtaining diplomas. Coach? It's none of my business. “

Marouane Fellaini will play the role of adviser to Chinese and Emirati clubs. © Jean Luc Flemal

You also have the role of ambassador and investor in Francs Borains, which is close to you.

“It was an opportunity that I used, to help the club that I love. It's a great project. We want to help our youngsters develop and it's perfect to do that in the Challenger Pro League. First of all, we have to sustain ourselves. I will come to the club to see how he is doing.”

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If I had my current view of football when I started, I might have been appalled.

You have carefully prepared for this post-career, avoiding pitfalls during your journey.

“As a soccer player, you meet a lot of good people, but also sharks and bastards. I encountered some, but I knew, thanks to those around me, to bypass them and chart my own path. It is important to manage your business well. Honestly, if I had my current view of football when I started, I might have been disgusted.”

Finally, when you're on your deathbed, what would you like people to say about you?

“That Marouane Fellaini, he was a good guy. The rest is crap (laughs).”

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