One cannot argue with the immense popularity and respect the Belgium national football team (also known as the Red Devils) have gained since their most recent performances at the World Cup in Brazil.
A young team filled with immense talent and captained by arguably the best defender in the business, Vincent Kompany, the Belgians played impressively mature football, knocking out tough opposition such as the Russians and the United States of America. Although they were eventually knocked out by a Strong Argentinian side in the quarters, Belgium has uncovered the love for their national side once again.
Incredible New Talent
The keys to this sudden surge of optimism surrounding the Red Devils are their incredibly talented juniors, all playing in big European competitions and excelling week after week. One of these juniors, a 19-year-old with Kenyan roots named Divock Origi, has surprised the world during the tournament, netting the winning goal against Russia in the final minutes of the game and thus securing Belgium’s progress to the knockout stages. His story is one of fairy-tale fashion, and he could well be the next big thing on the international football fields.
It should be pointed out: if it wasn’t for his father, Origi would probably never have played for Belgium. Mike Origi was a Kenyan football player, born and raised in the city of Murang’a. In 1992, Mike signed a professional contract for Belgian side KV Oostende, which started of a journey throughout the country until he resigned from football in 2007.
It was in Oostende that young Divock was born in 1995, and his football career during his younger days followed almost the same path as his father’s. In 2010, at the tender age of 15, he took a leap of faith and left KRC Genk’s highly acclaimed youth academy for French side Lille OSC. Leaving behind both family and friends, Origi encountered few struggles and soon became one of the most highly regarded talents in their youth system.
Divock Origi – A New Star
The football academy of Lille has educated several other Belgian talents over the years, and it can be stated as one of the keys to the Belgian success of recent years. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Everton’s Kevin Mirallas are two of the most highly touted talents in the modern game, and both have been trained and raised at the French club. As for his two preceding countrymen, it did not take long for Origi to make a good impression in Lille: in 2013 he made his official debut in the league game against Troyes, scoring the equalizing goal in the 74th minute.
Statistics after the 2012/2013 season: 11 games, 2 goals and a contract extension that would keep him in Lille until 2016. Not bad for a teenager, who could be part of the Belgian frontline of the future, along with fellow ex-Lille youth players Hazard and Mirallas.
The last part of his journey to the national first team is as remarkable as it is unbelievable. When the news broke that Aston Villa’s prolific goalscorer Christian Benteke got injured and would miss the World Cup, Belgium’s hope for success was suddenly severely diminished. As the nation discussed, argued and panicked, Marc Wilmots, the first team coach, received a call from his U21 coach, Gert Verheyen. Verheyen had noticed Origi was once again playing a terrific season at Lille, scoring 6 goals in 35 games.
He gave the coach the heads up and told him that the young striker would be a perfect replacement for the injured Benteke. Wilmots eventually shocked both Origi and the nation by putting the youngster on the final team sheet for the World Cup. Belgium roared in dismissal, having never heard of the name Divock Origi, and declared Wilmots an idiot for including such an inexperienced junior in the Belgian side.
Youngest Belgian World Cup Player Ever
The World Cup would prove to be the confirmation of Origi’s incredible talent. On the 17th of June, Origi became the youngest Belgian player to ever play at the World Cup, replacing the invisible Lukaku after halftime against Algeria. His enthusiasm, power, and speed spurred the Red Devils to a comeback win over the Africans, as the nation’s criticism suddenly turned into praise and awe.
In the second group game, the Belgians struggled with a well organized Russian side and looked to be heading towards a defeat. Wilmots substituted Lukaku for Origi, who once again started turning the game in Belgium’s favor. In a flash of pure brilliance in the 88th minute of a 0-0 tie, Hazard powered himself past the Russian defense and pulled a cross back to Origi, who became the seventh youngest World Cup goalscorer and the youngest Belgian by blasting the ball in the roof of the net. Final score: 1-0 and the Belgians were through to the knockout stages, Origi’s name imprinted into the minds of many football fans for years to come.
All though he could not prevent Belgium from being knocked out by the Argentines, the still only 19 years old Origi has made a sensational claim to fame. His journey from the youth teams of Lille to the biggest stage in football is definitely one of the most surprising to ever have been witnessed by any football fan. His story has recently received an even more spectacular sequel, as he signed to a 12,5 million euro transfer to Premier League team AFC Liverpool. With his promise and quality play during the World Cup, he has established himself as one of the brightest talents in the game, and could bring even more joy to the Belgian people for years to come.
Posted on 28 August 2014