By DAN KARELL
Gedion Zelalem received an early birthday present he won’t ever forget.
Just two days shy of his 17th birthday, Zelalem made his Arsenal debut, entering as a substitute in the 71st minute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Zelalem didn’t score but he did help provide a superb pass to teammate Santi Cazorla that finished with Olivier Giroud slamming the ball home for Arsenal’s third of the night in a 4-0 victory against Coventry City.
Born in Berlin, Germany and the son of Ethiopian parents, Zelalem spent six years (from age 9 to 15) living in Bethesda, Md. and developing his game with the local club team Olney Rangers. After being spotted at the well-renowned Dallas Cup youth tournament in 2011 by Arsenal scouts, Zelalem and his family moved to London last January where he joined the club’s academy full time. Zelalem is expected to sign his first professional contract this weekend once he turns 17-years old.
Though he lived in the U.S. and reportedly has a U.S. green card (along with his father), Zelalem currently only has German and Ethiopian citizenship and he’s currently in the Germany youth system, having most recently featured for the German Under-17s in a friendly match last fall.
It’s unlikely that Zelalem will ever be able to play for the U.S. since he’s no longer living in the country, but it’s a nice sign that a club in the U.S. can help develop a player who ends up at one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world.
What do you think of this news? Excited for Zelalem’s future? Think he ends up playing for Germany internationally?
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