The Story of Aurélien

Aurélien Tchouaméni: Meet the French soccer star everyone is talking about.

Last month, I found myself watching a game of soccer with my 14-year-old son. I asked him to tell me a story about playing soccer as a kid. “Here’s what I remember,” he said. “There was this one day, I don’t remember when exactly, but I remember my parents decided to go to the park with my older siblings. We left the house at around 5:30 p.m. and the streets were deserted—we were out there by ourselves. Then my elder brother went for a turn like we all do, you know, to feel the wind with his hair blowing around, so he started dancing. It was the first time we’d ever danced together, and at that point I was in the middle of all of us, and I decided to join in. I stood there, I was laughing and dancing, and I remember everyone else was watching, they were all like, ‘Man, they’re just like ants!’ I was about to go home, when suddenly the sky lit up like fireworks… and there was this huge bright spot in the sky, and all I could do was watch. And that was how it came to be that my brother became the first player to score on me in my life. It was like he was saying to me, ‘Hey, you’ve got something going here. Let us see if you’re capable of something.’”

I was captivated, and that was when he told me the main reason he began playing soccer. It was clear from the moment I met Aurélien that he was a very serious, serious kid—a young man who was obsessed with his sport. And it didn’t take me long to notice. I think the reason is simple, because Aurélien had an incredible presence on the soccer field: a kind of gravity that drew you to him like a magnet. And that was something I didn’t see in most young athletes I interviewed. We talked for two hours about a range of subjects, but the main focus of the discussion was the game of soccer. There was no way to avoid that.

In Aurélien, he says, he saw a complete athlete with

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