Hibs Daniel Boateng recalls training with Brazil

Daniel Boateng trained alongside Brazilian superstars Robinho and Ronaldinho, below
Daniel Boateng trained alongside Brazilian superstars Robinho and Ronaldinho, below
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But for Boateng it was a dream which came true, his name one of four lucky Arsenal trainees chosen to train with the five-times World Cup winners when they pitched up in London five years ago to face Italy in a friendly at the Gunners’ Emirates Stadium.

Brazil's striker Robinho (L) celebrates scoring the second goal with midfielder Ronaldinho (R) during their International friendly match against Italy at the Emirates Stadium, London, on February 10, 2009.    AFP PHOTO / Adrian Dennis (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil's striker Robinho (L) celebrates scoring the second goal with midfielder Ronaldinho (R) during their International friendly match against Italy at the Emirates Stadium, London, on February 10, 2009. AFP PHOTO / Adrian Dennis (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

And, although he has since rubbed shoulders with Arsene Wenger’s glittering array of household names, making his debut alongside the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Thomas Vermaelen, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Per Mertesacker, that day with Dunga’s squad is one he’ll never forget.

Now 21, Boateng recalled: “Brazil had a few players who couldn’t train ahead of the match so they asked Liam O’Brady [Arsenal’s head of youth development] if we could provide four young players to make up the numbers.

“I was lucky enough to be chosen although, I have to admit, I thought it was a wind-up to begin with. I remember playing as Brazil on FIFA but then to find myself training with them was incredible, absolutely surreal. As a 16-year-old, going onto the training ground with players like Pato, Ronaldhino, Robinho and Marcelo was nerve-wracking but once we got out there for a few drills it was okay, a great experience.

“But it was also a real eye-opener to see just what is needed if you want to reach the very top of the game, the way they applied themselves in the training sessions, the professionalism and the fact that winning is what matter most. That’s the biggest thing if you want to be a successful football player.

“It was a great insight into how players such as them prepare for match days. I had plenty of pictures to prove to my mates that it was all true plus one of their training tops!” Already a long-term pupil in Arsenal’s own youth academy – plucked from Sunday League football with Broadwater United, on the once notorious “Farm” estate, at the age of only ten – Boateng’s education with the London outfit continued to the point where he became captain of their reserve side. Now, though, he admits he’s at the stage he needs regular first-team experience, something he hopes to enjoy during his loan spell with Hibs.

Born in Tottenham but with parents from Ghana, he said: “I started off with Broadwater, a very good team that’s produced quite a few players over the years. I was playing Sunday League football and, at the age of nine or ten, I played against an Arsenal team. I was scouted by them and it all kicked off from there. I was brought into the Arsenal set-up, signed for the Under-11s and I’ve been there for about ten years.

“Being from Tottenham and signing for the great rivals Arsenal caused a bit of grief from certain people but football players are passionate about the game regardless of which team they are playing for so that wasn’t going to stop me.”

Boateng regards his move on loan to Hibs until the end of the season as the next step in his career, an opportunity for first-team football which, despite captaining the Gunners’ reserve side, was obviously going to be hard to come by given the players at Wenger’s disposal.

He has, however, already had to be patient, the only one of the three January signings made by Easter Road boss Terry Butcher not to be handed a debut in last weekend’s Scottish Cup defeat by Raith Rovers. Left on the bench as Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore started the match and Notts County striker Danny Haynes made an appearance as a second-half substitute, Boateng finally pulled on a green-and-white jersey to face Hearts in the “mini derby” at Livingston’s Energy Assets Arena, a match the young Hibees won 3-2. Boateng, who hopes to make his full debut against Ross County at Easter Road tomorrow, laughed: “I just love derbies. My last game for Arsenal was against Chelsea’s reserves and we won that one as well. Like any derby it was a tough game, every player is always a bit more on edge but there’s no better feeling than winning. I would have loved to have played against Raith last week but it’s more difficult to put a young defender straight into a team. A winger or a striker always has the potential to get a goal out of nothing but, as a defender, you have to be on it from the start to the finish of every match. So I fully understand the manager’s thinking while I know it is up to me to work hard for my chance and when it comes, grab it with both hands. Watching the game it looked pretty fast, end-to-end stuff. It was disappointing to lose, particularly as the boys had told me Hibs had been to the previous two finals.

“I enjoyed playing on Tuesday night but I’m hoping to make the most of coming here to Edinburgh. I’ve been playing reserve team football for a while now, I need to make the step-up and the aim of coming to Hibs was to get as much first-team football as I can.”