สมัครUFABET The Southampton winger and Norway international lives by his parents’ values and has never allowed success to go to his head
As Mohamed Elyounoussi thinks back to the days helping his father run a pizza restaurant in Sarpsborg, feelings of pride and gratitude rise in Southampton’s Norwegian midfielder. Some teenagers might have moaned about having to spend their spare time mixing dough and serving customers but Elyounoussi could be found behind the counter even after playing for Sarpsborg 08’s first team. “Some of the people who were at the game came to order pizza and saw me,” he says. “There were some funny moments.”
It is an amusing image, the young star removing his boots and heading for a shift at Park Pizza, but Elyounoussi is thankful to his parents for enabling him to keep his gifted feet on the ground throughout his career. He has never allowed his success to go to his head and even admits to being starstruck when he met Roger Federer during his time at Basel. “These are the values my parents gave me,” Elyounoussi says. “Always be humble. Always work hard for what you want in life.”
The eldest of four children, Elyounoussi is attached to his roots and his family’s journey from Morocco to Norway. “My father’s cousin was living in Norway and he asked if my father wanted to take the chance,” he says. “It was good money in Norway. I don’t think he was really planning on settling down.”
Abdelbaki Elyounoussi went on his own, found a job at Park Pizza and ended up in charge. These days, though, the locals have to go elsewhere. “There’s no more pizza business in my family,” Elyounoussi says. “I told him to have a rest and I’d take care of the bills. He went in at 9am for baking until 11am or 12pm. He came home, had lunch and then opened up at 2pm until 11pm. He always came home late. I was in bed already. When I got to a certain level and I could help him out, I said he should stop.”
There was even a pizza named after Elyounoussi on the menu, although his Muslim faith means he has never tasted the Moi Special. “The toppings were actually things I can’t eat,” he says. “Ham, pepperoni, stuff like that. My father had 23 pizzas on the menu. He added No 24 and at the time that was the number on my shirt.”
It is impossible not to ask whether Elyounoussi has ever been made to feel different in Norway. He arrived at the age of two and says his heart belongs to two places: where he was born and where he grew up.
“I had friends and they saw me as Norwegian,” he says. “They knew I was from another part of the world. But I was always seen as a Norwegian and I learned the language very quickly. After a while my cousin Tarik and his family came over. He was about 12 or 13 and didn’t know the language. He remembers going to the airport and it being cold.”
Now the Elyounoussi cousins play together for Norway. Along with Omar Elabdellaoui and Haitam Aleesami, they are a shining example of multiculturalism. The Moroccan contingent combined when Elyounoussi scored Norway’s winner against Bulgaria in the Nations League this month.
There was no pressure on Elyounoussi when it came to choosing between Morocco and Norway. “I chose Norway because I played for them since the under-15s,” the 24-year-old says. “That is where I got the chance to play football. It would be great to play for Morocco as well.”
The discussion moves on to playing http://www.ny-xxx.net/สมัครufabet/ under Brian Deane at Sarpsborg. “Even though I was 18, he put a lot of pressure on me,” Elyounoussi says. “He knew what I was capable of. He gave me examples from his career. Stuff like being focused on football and not on the stuff that comes around football, like partying and girls. He was not just a football manager, he was a like a second dad. We were that close. I haven’t had such a strong bond with my other coaches. He always told me I would play in the Premier League one day. I didn’t really believe him.”
In 2014 Elyounoussi moved to Molde, who were managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The former Manchester United striker made him a more efficient finisher and that led to a transfer to Basel two years later.
Elyounoussi thrived in Switzerland and he got to meet Federer, Basel’s most famous supporter. It was a big moment for a keen tennis fan. “You often remember the conversation,” Elyounoussi says. “But I was so star-struck. He was so humble.”
However, Federer’s praise was not enough to keep Elyounoussi from joining Southampton for £16m in the summer. He had impressed against English opposition in the Champions League last season, scoring in Basel’s victory over Manchester City in March, and Mark Hughes needed a new creative midfielder after selling Dusan Tadic to Ajax.
Elyounoussi is yet to produce his best form for สมัครUFABET Southampton, who lie a point above the bottom three before hosting Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, but he is enjoying life in England. His father has also been nosing around. “When we were in Winchester having a walk, he saw some places you could rent,” Elyounoussi says. “He said: ‘I could have a pizza restaurant here. I can move into your house.’ He was joking about moving over.”