In his first exclusive television interview for what would appear to be a very long time, Nicolas Anelka appeared on CCTV5’s “Football Night” program last week. Although none of his answers are earth-shattering, Anelka’s appearance is nevertheless noteworthy as he seldom accepts such interviews. Reaction in the Chinese media has mainly focused on his personality being much more shy and down-to-earth than his public image and reputation suggests. Is coming to China going to be what it took for the world to get to know Nicolas Anelka? Sina Sports published a transcript of the interview, as well as the program presenter’s introductory comments. What follows is ‘s translation of Sina’s report.
At the start of the program, presenter Liu Zhenhong says, “Anelka is quite unlike the hard-to- approach, wild and untamed type he is said to be. As a matter of fact, he’s quite introverted and a bit shy and actually quite easy to connect with. He said before coming to China he very seldom did TV interviews – few French or British journalists have had any chance to question him
“Maybe its because it’s the first time, a change of environment or because he’s in good spirits recently, he finally accepted our request after much deliberation. It would seem that, having joined the ninth club of his career, perhaps he wants to change himself a little.”
CCTV5： You previously said you were moved by Shenhua’s sincereity when they approached you and that you would strive to your your best for your new club. Can you be more specific about what they did that impressed you?
Anelka: “When Shenhua approached me they talked about how important it would be for them if I joined. I’m been interested in Asia and China, so when this offer came, I agreed to it right away.”
CCTV5: You said you like Asian people’s thinking and way of life, that you are really interested in China and you want to explore the country. I’d like to ask you – what do you think is the Chinese way of thinking and approach to life? Which aspects of Chinese culture are you most interested in?
Anelka: “I don’t understand much about China as yet, although I do understand a little about Asian people’s way of thinking. I think Asians are dilligent and genial people. My first impressions of this came during my time at Manchester City from 2002-2004, from my Chinese team-mate, Sun Jihai.”
CCTV5: “You’ve played for eight clubs before coming to China, has serving with so many clubs given you a lot of life experience in general?”
Anelka: “As far as I’m concerned, football is a game, and I want to have even more experiences in my life. If I had the chance it would have been good to stay at one club for my whole career, of course that would have been a good life, but if I can experience more things outside of football, then when I retire from playing I can take pleasure in knowing I not only was able to play football, I was also able to get to know lots of different peoples and cultures from different parts of the world. For me, this is very important.”
CCTV5： What did your family and friends think when you decided to come to China?
Anelka: As I said before, I understand Asia a little but I really want to understand more, so I accepted the opportunity to come here really quickly. My parents have never been to China before, they are also very keen to get to know the country, to get to know Shanghai. And when I made the decision to come here, some of my footballer friends also expressed an interest in coming to play in China. After I signed with Shenhua, the club said I was making a good decision, and this decision is advantageous for me.
CCTV5: Setting aside emotional or personal reasons, and teams you have played with before or perhaps even play for now – which European team do you appreciate most?
Anelka: I think I’ll answer by going from my own experience, for me its about what the coach requires me to do on the pitch. I really cherish my time at Liverpool when I played just behind the front two, I really liked that.
CCTV5: Recently Arsenal lost 4-0 to AC Milan in the Champions League, how do you think EPL teams will do in Europe this year?
Anelka: Looking at it from a general perspective, EPL teams have performed very well in Europe, of course, over the last two years English teams haven’t played all that well, but I think they will soon be back playing better in Europe.
CCTV5： In your career so far, in which game did you score your most unforgettable goal?
Anelka: I really can’t think of it – I don’t play football only to score goals, but for the enjoyment of playing football as a whole. If playing football was only about scoring goals, I wouldn’t play it.
CCTV5: What is the main reason for children, be they from China or anywhere else, to play football?
Anelka: I think you don’t need a reason to play football, it should be a natural thing, if my kids want to play football, I will support them, even although football is a very difficult and tough sport.
CCTV5: Why is that?
Anelka: This domain is very complicated and creates a lot of pressure, there are many games which involves a lot of travel, so there isn’t so much time to spend with family.
CCTV5: What sports do you like outside of football?
Anelka: I like tennis, but I don’t like swimming. Boxing is ok. My favourite sportsman is Adre Aggassi, no matter if its his hairstyle, dress sense or temprement on the court, he is a unique and unmatched individual who stands out from the crowd.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015