On the day he could represent his country in a European Championships for the first time, Andreas Christensen reveals how he fell in love with the game, in his own words…
I can’t really remember a time when football wasn’t part of my life. I started when I was four, and my dad started up a football team locally. That’s probably the first memory I’ve got of my childhood, actually. It’s just football.
My dad was a professional goalkeeper in Denmark. In fact, when Peter Schmeichel went to Man United, Brøndby brought in my dad. Schmeichel went, and he came in.
He stopped playing when they had me. As soon as I was born, he retired because I think he wanted to be there with the family. So I didn’t get to see him play, but I’ve heard stories and seen pictures, and he’s got a lot of shirts from his career.
We played together all the time. We lived in a green area and there was quite a lot of space, so we’d get a bit of fence and build it a little bit higher at one point to make a goal. Then, he would go in goal and I would just shoot, so we spent some time together doing what we both love – football.
My home town is called Allerød, and we were close to whatever we wanted. It’s about 20 minutes from Copenhagen and the other way we’ve got Hillerød, which is a slightly bigger town as well. So we were in the middle of two towns and we had the beach nearby as well. We’d go to the beach and throw the ball around in the water, keeping it in the air.
But I always loved football. Brøndby were my favourite team in Denmark. That’s where my dad played and we went to quite a few games there when I was younger. Then, as I got older, I would meet up with friends after training and go to the stadium to watch football. Brøndby was the biggest club, especially in my area. So when I was 10 years old and I heard they wanted me to go there and try out, I was excited. It was the biggest thing I could do at that age.
I started as a striker, dribbling a lot, doing all the tricks and scoring goals. Then I went onto midfield, where I was on the ball a lot and you had to be a good technical player. So when I became a defender, I would still drive the ball up to midfield.
My dad ended up coaching me again in the Brøndby Under-14s or Under-15s, and I had a few other coaches, but I remember two in particular: Nils Nielsen and John Ranum. Those two had a big impact on what I was doing. The first one took me as a midfielder, and he put me at centre-back. He said he could see me going far in this position and that meant a lot, because without that I wouldn’t be where I am today. Then the other one had a way of coaching that was great for me personally. So those two – and my dad as well – gave me a lot to be thankful for.
It wasn’t always easy for me at that age, though. I was almost thrown into the second team the year after my dad coached me because I didn’t perform. It must have been Under-15s. I had a bad year or so and you wonder to yourself, 'Do I actually want to continue doing this?'
It’s just that moment when it goes badly and you think, 'Is it even worth it?'
But then you have a great game and suddenly you’re starting again, and it all goes quickly the other way.
That was about two-and-a-half years before I joined Chelsea, but at that time I never thought that far ahead. I just thought I had to play football.