Near and Far: Thibaut Courtois
feature Wed 11 Jan 2017
Thibaut Courtois is the latest player to answer questions about his own country and others elsewhere in the world...
WHAT CHARACTERISTICS DEFINE YOUR COUNTRY?
Belgium is quite a small country with a lot of talent. We are overshadowed by many parts of the world in terms of size but we’re still important. I think the people are really open and warm – we’re multicultural and speak several languages. But we are obviously best known for our food and drink: the mussels, the chocolate, the beer.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN BELGIUM?
I don’t really have a favourite place in Belgium because it’s a small country and all the cities are located so close together. I think Brussels and Bruges are most popular with tourists for good reason because they are particularly interesting places to visit.
IS THERE ANYWHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO GO IN BELGIUM YOU’VE NEVER BEEN?
I feel like I have seen and done everything in Belgium because you can drive everywhere very easily. I was born in Bree but lived in Bilzen, it's a small village which is growing, although at the moment its main attraction is still the sports facilities. We have produced a lot of famous sports people like motorsport racers and the tennis player Kim Clijsters (pictured below).
WHICH SPORTS ARE POPULAR, OTHER THAN FOOTBALL? ARE YOU ANY GOOD AT THEM?
I would say hockey and cycling are the next biggest. My family played volleyball which is also quite big but the infrastructure isn’t anything special. I wasn’t bad at volleyball when I was a child until I stopped playing to concentrate on my football.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT FOOTBALL IN BELGIUM WE MAY NOT KNOW
The youth academies are very good at the moment after they received a lot of investment, which is a key factor in our current generation of players. The Belgian FA puts lots of effort into supporting our young players and I think it is paying off.
WHERE IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO WHERE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN?
I’d like to go to Australia or Thailand. It’s a shame I haven’t had the chance to visit yet because there are such nice cities and beaches. The flora and fauna in Australia is particularly impressive – I’d love to see some kangaroos.
WHAT LANGUAGES DO YOU SPEAK AND WHICH WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPEAK?
I studied modern languages a bit at school and know how to speak Dutch, French, English and Spanish. I understand German and Portuguese when my team-mates talk but I don’t speak them particularly well. At the moment I would realistically like to learn Italian but if I was feeling ambitious I would try to learn Chinese.
WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU LEFT YOUR COUNTRY?
The first time I actually went to live abroad was when I left Belgium to live in Spain. I didn’t get properly homesick but I do remember finding it tough for the first few weeks. It’s not so easy because spending two weeks on holiday or at a training camp isn’t the same. Obviously, you have to stay focused on football and getting on well with your team-mates helps.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF MAYBE LIVING WHEN YOU FINISH PLAYING FOOTBALL?
I might like to live in Madrid once I have retired from football because I really admired the city and its architecture while playing there – and if not Spain, maybe Los Angeles.