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Interview with Vincent Kompany, Captain of Manchester City Football Team

Aired August 9, 2013 - 05:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a wonderful great captain. He has been with us here for so many years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great. He's the pride of Belgium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best captain that we could possibly have. Yes, the best.

MONITA RAJPAL, ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL (voiceover): They're talking about this man. Meet Vincent Kompany. Manchester City's premiership- winning football captain.

Starting at Belgium's Anderlecht, he caught the eye of world-renowned clubs at just 17. But, after turning down offers, he was eventually snapped up by Hamburg to play in the German leagues. It wasn't until 2008 that Manchester City lured him in to bolster its defense. This came before the club was bought by Sheikh Mansour. Kompany is now one of the team's leading figures.

VINCENT KOMPANY, CAPTAIN, MANCHESTER CITY FOOTBALL TEAM: Well I wanted to achieve great things and this is just the start, I can guarantee you.

RAJPAL (voiceover): Becoming captain in 2011 and leading the team to the Premier League championship for the first time in 44 years.

KOMPANY: So that I can, you know -- that we can give this to the fans.

RAJPAL (voiceover): Known for his tough tackling and intelligence on the pitch, he's also captain of Belgium's national team, chairman of a third-tier football club in his home country, and ambassador for the international charity, SOS Children.

This week, on "Talk Asia", we catch up with Vincent Kompany.


RAJPAL: Vincent Kompany, welcome to "Talk Asia".

KOMPANY: Thank you.

RAJPAL: You're here in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia trophy. And you've been playing - you played with a local team. What was that like for you?

KOMPANY: It was different - different conditions. They, you know, they were a bit more used to it than we were. But in the end, it was a good outcome for us.

RAJPAL: We're seeing a lot of fans camped out wherever you are, to show their support for Manchester City. What is it like to see that?

KOMPANY: Yes, it kind of - I mean, it's almost like you're everywhere at home a little bit. You know, people give you high fives from Dublin (ph) to Hong Kong, from New York to Bogota.


KOMPANY: You know, it really doesn't matter. People know what you've achieved and it's quite a nice feeling. But I never really take it for granted, either.

RAJPAL: Manchester City has some few new signs. We're looking at Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo. How do signings change the dynamics of a team?

KOMPANY: Well, you know, new signings come without any preconception, you know. So they have - they usually ambitious and in any team that wants success, you need that. I think for us, now - if you look at the amount of competitions that are lined up for us, you know you need a big group.


KOMPANY: You need a big squad. And those guys will - I mean, they already fit in pretty well.

RAJPAL: Who do you believe will be City's biggest competition, looking into trying to get the Premier League title this season?

KOMPANY: I think the way that the Premier League is evolving - you kind of always know that, you know, the top three, top four - but I would even say there's five or six teams now who are openly, can't really hide anymore, that they need to win a title at some stage. So it's very competitive. That makes the Premier League the most exciting league in the world.

RAJPAL: Interestingly enough, Carlos Tevez told CNN that the main reason why Manchester City failed in Europe last season - or last two seasons - was because of the fact that there was a lot of pressure that was being felt. Do you believe that? Do you agree?

KOMPANY: Yes, I can understand this observation. But we've been dealing with a lot of pressure now in the past four or five years since this new revolution started at the club. A lot of competition, also, in the team to play, because a lot of good players coming in. But I mean, any player that wants to play for a big team, you know, needs to be, you know, happy to see that pressure coming. Obviously, it makes it a bit harder to deal with, but hopefully we'll get used to it and hopefully we'll get the results that we need.

RAJPAL: Part of that revolution is a new manager at City. We're looking at Manuel Pellegrini. What kind of impact does a new manager have?

KOMPANY: It's part of what I said about the new signings as well. It comes with the belief that anything is achievable and, you know, the ambitions are so high. And you need that. But I will say that one of the bigger things is the fact that we can learn something else as well. It's part of every footballer's career - you need to evolve, you need to become a better player. And every manager you have can add something to your game.

RAJPAL: What do you look for in a manager as a player - not just as a captain, but as a player? What do you look for that's important that you can actually absorb from a manager?

KOMPANY: I think experience and leadership are probably the biggest things that you need for a group. But, you know, he's a man with a lot of class. With a, you know, with a bit of flair in his approach. And that helps. But it's really - the team has to buy into it. That's for every single club in the world - the team has to buy into whatever the new managerial staff brings in. And so, that's what we're trying to do now.

RAJPAL: The same could be said for Manchester United.

KOMPANY: Exactly.

RAJPAL: They're playing with anew manager now, after, I guess, 30 years. We're looking at David Moyes. Huge shoes that he has to fill. How do you believe that team is going to have to adapt to a new manager after such a long time?

KOMPANY: I think it's the same for everyone. The only way to make it work is if you just completely buy into whatever the new manager brings in. If he has different methods, different beliefs, you can't - you know, you can't let your feelings of the past block whatever that guy brings in, because then you make the job already hard before it's even started. That's what I believe in.

RAJPAL: Some people would describe football as their religion. It's a sense of belonging. It's a sense of community. As captain of Manchester City and of Belgium's National Football Team, you've been described as fiercely loyal. How do you defend that loyalty when, some critics will say, a footballer would go to the highest bidder?

KOMPANY: Well first of all, I think if you look at our individual story of every single footballer, you know, we started to play the game for one thing only. It's because, you know, we wanted to achieve the greatest thing in the game. And whichever way it turns out to be - wherever you go, you do gain some loyalty towards your club as you, you know, have this connection with the fans. As you have this connection with the people that work at the club. So you can't ever play football anywhere if you don't give everything you have. So, you know, there's a bit of a contradiction in there, but there is a lot of passion in whatever we do. And that's what the fans recognize, anyway.


RAJPAL: What, then, would you hope, or are you hoping to teach the young kids about racism in football?

KOMPANY: People who you call racists - you know, I don't envy those guys. You know, I wouldn't like to be in their position. I think it's a very sad life.





RAJPAL: What is it about the youth development in football in Belgium that is really nurturing this kind of talent that's perhaps different from, say, in England?

KOMPANY: Well, it's a bit of a debate as well in Belgium as much as people now say that we have a great generation. I think that we benefited a lot from the fact that we are a small country. So a lot of the players at a very young age have kind of had the chance to develop even outside of our borders or had the chance to play at a very young age in their home league. And you bring all this together and it gives us this mix now. Which is - you know, we have a great team.

RAJPAL: Is that part of the reason why you wanted to be a part of that kind of nurturing with the investment into what is now being called BX Brussels?

KOMPANY: Yes. Well, I have my own belief about how the game should be.


KOMPANY: And, you know, you grow up and it's like everybody - you know, you always have your thoughts and your beliefs about things. And you know, happy about this guy, not happy about the way they do it at this club -


KOMPANY: And I thought, you know, instead of pointing fingers, the best way is to do it myself. So I did it myself.

RAJPAL: What, then, would you hope - or are you hoping - to teach the young kids - the youth that are coming in through that football club - about racism in football? We are seeing this beautiful game being marred by events on the pitch in England, in the pitch in Italy as well. How do you fight this scourge?

KOMPANY: I think there's two different things - I want to - the first key message that I want to bring out - and it's not directly linked to racism or towards education -- is to say that football is not everything. So, but then having said that, everything you do - if you like it, you need to do it with everything you've got.

And then towards racism - I do think that you can, you know, outgrow it a little bit. People who you call racists, you know, I don't envy those guys. You know, I wouldn't like to be in their position. I think it's a very sad life. It's a very sad way of behaving. So I wouldn't give them too much attention.

But at the same time, you know, as much as I wouldn't teach my kids to give them too much attention, I hope that the governing bodies will be extremely hard and extremely, you know, exemplary in the way that they deal with those situations.

RAJPAL: Does it shock you? I mean, it shocks me that it still happens.

KOMPANY: Yes, you know, it shocks me, but - you know, in a weird way, something I've had to deal with as well when I was younger. You know, and I just remember what my parents said. You know, m y parents really always said that I was a better person than those guys who did that. And that, therefore, I shouldn't really worry too much about it. As long as, you know, always you make sure that you fight for those who really feel like victims of it, you know? I don't feel like a victim of it. I'm way above this in my head, you know?

RAJPAL: Tell me about growing up in Brussels and that kind of grounding that your parents had given you.

KOMPANY: Well, my father was a political refugee and he fought against Mobutu back in the days as a student. And they got imprisoned and then he went to Belgium to leave the regime from Mobutu. My mother, she was a union activist. So very opinionated people in the family. And, you know, it's gone through to the kids as well.


KOMPANY: They've given us so much love when we were younger. But you know, I guess like any modern family as well, we've had our problems. Had a divorce, my father lost his job at some stage, you know, we've had financial difficulties like any normal family would have. But I think that the biggest lesson for me is that we've always come back to that education has given us the strength to always kind of, you know, do our own thing. And knowing that we would be OK, even if we didn't have any money, because we knew exactly how to handle situations.

RAJPAL: Your parents placed a huge importance on education - further education. Learning as much as you can. Because it was important to always have something to fall back on, no matter how talented you may have been - and you are - on the pitch. So much so, that even when you were playing at Anderlecht, some of the biggest teams in the world came looking for you. And you said, "No", to teams like Manchester United. Even describing it as playing Russian roulette at the time. What was that about?

KOMPANY: Some good research. The best way to define it is - in my head, it wasn't really possible. You know, it wasn't a possibility. I couldn't go anywhere without finishing my studies, you know? I don't know, it just never came to my mind. And I always remember playing Champions' League in Munich - big game, millions of people watching the games. And then, next day, coming back around two o'clock in the morning. Next day at eight o'clock, I was just sat on the bench with all my classmates and I was just a normal guy. And it's always given me the right balance, though.


KOMPANY: And, you know, I thank my mother every day - and my father - every day for having pushed me into that direction. They've never, ever said to me, "You're great a footballer. Now you've made it. Just focus on your football". They've always said, "Keep other things at hand". And I guess I still have this in my life now.

RAJPAL: Do you feel that gives you the confidence to play on the pitch? Because you know you always have something?

KOMPANY: I try not to confuse things, though. But it's something that goes into my sport a lot, though. The confidence. It's not something I say out in the open and it's probably not true. So -


KOMPANY: But, in my head, before I start a game, I'm the best player in the world. I feel like nobody can pass me. I feel like I'm going to be stronger than anyone else. It's probably not true, but that's the mindset.

RAJPAL: But then, in 2008, the big decision comes to move to Manchester City. It's a big move for any player to play for such a well- known and respected team. Difficult year, though. Because, on the one hand, you have a career achievement. On the other hand, you suffered devastating personal loss with the passing away of your mom.


RAJPAL: What did you learn about yourself, in terms of having to deal with the two very opposing moments in your life?

KOMPANY: Well, there was that and the fact that it was for the first time that year that I visited Congo. You know, and those few things coming together in the same year - the move, the loss of my mother, my first visit to Congo - I think it did change me as a human being. You know, everything my mother said to me before became all of a sudden so much more important to me, because I wanted to hold on to something.

And the visit to Congo made me realize that - because I had a lot of injuries that year as well - made me realize that there's actually no reason to every complain about anything. But I just have to carry on and that I was lucky to live 20 years, at least, with my mom - 22 years. And I just started to see the world a little bit differently.


KOMPANY: We are in a neighborhood called Entenga (ph) which is a neighborhood from Kinshasa.

Just the fact that you can see this and, you know, the behavior of the children - they're well behaved. You know, they write, they speak, and they - you can see that it's a world of difference between the same children who actually don't have anything and the other children that don't have anything, but don't go to school.

You can't underestimate the job that is being done by those things that we've seen over there. You can't underestimate it.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kompany is very great.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Manchester's birthday. I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love Manchester City.


RAJPAL: One of your biggest supporters has described to me that there are three - the three best things that have come out of Belgium are chocolate, beer, and Vincent Kompany.


RAJPAL: How does -

KOMPANY: And French fries. But I don't know -


KOMPANY: Seriously, but I don't know why people call it "French fries". It's from Belgium.

RAJPAL: OK, the Belgium fries, then.

KOMPANY: Yes, exactly.

RAJPAL: How did you deal with it? How does it feel to have that kind of support and loyalty from your fans?

KOMPANY: I mean, it means a million things to me. But you know, as I said, I never take things for granted. So I try - it kind of goes past me, you know. I have a little smile on my face when I hear it, but for the rest, you know, I don't live with it.


KOMPANY: I've got so many things I want to achieve. So many things I want to do for other people as well that I don't really have the time to just sit there and contemplate all the beautiful things I've done.

RAJPAL: It's interesting. You said that you haven't actually achieved all of your goals.

KOMPANY: I don't want to sound overambitious, but I really - I really live for the future, you know. Every new day brings about another opportunity. And the moment you close your eyes, you know, it goes past you. And you start living in the past - I can't do that.

RAJPAL: You've, again, have often been described as a very, you know, gentle - a gentleman, loyal, a hard worker, soft-spoken. Were you always that way?

KOMPANY: No. I guess, obviously, the more I get old - I'm only 27.

RAJPAL: 27? You consider that old?

KOMPANY: Yes, well, I don't know. But probably by the time I'm 60, I'll be very, very soft-spoken. But I guess when I was younger, I was voicing my opinion -

RAJPAL: Yes, I heard you would walk off a pitch - off training, as well.

KOMPANY: Yes, that's what you learn with age, I would say. You know, and I'm still not completely there yet. But you just learn to put your opinion there at the right moments. Because if you don't do it at the right moment, then your opinion is worthless.

RAJPAL: Who are your heroes in football? And who are your heroes in life?

KOMPANY: I grew up admiring Marcel Desailly. Played in the same position and I was usually compared to him in the playing style that we have. And then, as I grew a little bit older, then Patrick Vieira became someone I was really looking up to. And I ended up playing with him. So, and I see him every day at Carrington's. I think it's always a good thing to follow those who have had success. Because there's always a reason for it.

RAJPAL: I read that when you were a child - when you were a kid - you would actually dream about holding up a trophy, playing in packed stadiums filled with people who supported you - that was what you visualized. That's what you dreamed about, as opposed to having a nice car or living in a big house.

KOMPANY: It sounds naive and it sounds a little bit like - well, I can't remember myself ever dreaming living in a big house - like, I couldn't imagine that I would ever have a big house or that I would ever have any money. But for some reason, I knew I was going to play in front of big stadiums with big crowds and that I was going to be successful in my sport.

So the two didn't go together for me. Because, obviously, from where I grew up, I never knew what a big house looked like and I never knew what you could have if you had money. It didn't really ever play in my mind.

RAJPAL: And now that you do?

KOMPANY: Now that I do, I -- you enjoy the good things in life.


KOMPANY: And I've always learned as well that you, you know, you have to enjoy the good things in life. And it's my contribution, I guess, to the society as well.

RAJPAL: Well, you also contribute from a charitable perspective, as well - being an ambassador of SOS - the Children's Village.


RAJPAL: Building villages where it's so desperately needed. You've said that your charity - the work that you do, in that perspective, is just as important - it's just as much of a priority - as it is being a great footballer. Why is it so important for you to have those two in such - have that, at least, in such high importance?

KOMPANY: Because I know where I come from. And I've not just been saying it since now, but I've been saying it since I was 17-years-old, you know. When I played my first game. I think - I don't like it when people describe as, "Do you feel you need to do something back?"


KOMPANY: I don't really feel I need to do something back. But do I want to? Yes. You know, as for Children's Village is such a wonderful organization and I keep promoting it as much as I can, because I do think that every penny that gets sent over to those guys - they do miracles with it.

RAJPAL: What do you think makes a great footballer? Is it just about talent on the pitch?

KOMPANY: No, there's so many great footballers. And I guess they're all different. But I've - I don't know - I've always thought that the best that I've seen have always been people that didn't think - they were so applied to their job. And then, when you're actually going through their lives, you realize that they're unbelievable professionals and people who have done all the right things at the right moment. And when I'm talking about a great player, I mean a player that lasts for 10 years at the top level. Not someone that comes in for two years and then disappears.

RAJPAL: What does it take to maintain longevity?

KOMPANY: Dedication. You know, commitment and I guess you have to give up a lot of things as well.

RAJPAL: Such as?

KOMPANY: Yes, well, you never really will have the student lifestyle.


KOMPANY: You know, the university lifestyle. You can forget about it. You won't be allowed to make as many mistakes as other people do. But in return, you get a lot, of course.


KOMPANY: You'll be away from your family a lot of times. So you just have to be able to deal with those things. Nothing to complain about, but you have to handle those things.

RAJPAL: All right. Vincent Kompany, thank you so much.

KOMPANY: Nice to meet you.