Name: Alfred Mugabo
Date of birth: 09/10/1995
Position: Right back/midfielder
Having experienced World Cup football as a 15-year-old, Alfred Mugabo is well placed to meet the challenges ahead.
The new academy recruit explains: “We got a call out of the blue from the Rwandan FA saying that they wanted me to join them for a game in France. We toured Europe for a couple of weeks, and we then toured America before we went to Mexico for the Under-17 World Cup.
“I was really nervous when I first joined, especially as I was just 15 years old then. I was aware that, particularly in the World Cup tournament, I would be playing against some of the best under-17 players in the world. But once I settled in and played a couple of games with Rwanda, my confidence grew and I felt stronger, so I was not at all fazed by the challenge.
“In the end I really enjoyed the experience. We stayed at the same hotel as England and I knew some of the players - including Raheem Sterling, who has featured a lot for Liverpool this season.
“Of the Arsenal lads, the only player that I knew out there was Kyle Ebecilio, who was with Holland, but he was based in another part of Mexico so we didn’t cross paths. We have spoken about it since, though.
“I think that experience helped me a lot, especially whenI joined Arsenal as a scholar this summer. I was selected to play for the reserves against Chesham, and although I was surprised to be named in the squad, I had no worries about playing against men. I came on in our 6-2 win and enjoyed the experience, treating it like a regular game.
“Being at a tournament like the Under-17 World Cup was invaluable for me. It was an insight into tournament football, but also playing at high altitude in Mexico was another physical challenge that we all had to get used to. Additionally, getting the chance to see the standards of the teams and players was good for me because these were the world’s best in their age group and I felt comfortable being among them, even though I was two years younger.”
Alfred came to the UK with his family when he was two years old but still has family back in Rwanda. He has not travelled there much, although he is regularly interviewed by radio stations from the African country. “I have not played for Rwanda since last July, but they have already asked me to join the squad for the upcoming Under-20 World Cup which I’m looking forward to.”
The youngster has joined the Academy set-up, now coached by Pat Holland after Steve Bould’s appointment as assistant manager, and Alfred reports that things are going well despite a heavy opening-day defeat.
“We lost 5-1 to Bolton, then drew 1-1 with Bolton and notched up our first win of the season last time out against Everton,” he recalls. “Against Bolton we didn’t play as a team in attack, but especially not in defence. We came back and worked on improving the weaknesses - things got better against Blackburn and we progressed further with a 2-1 win over a tough Everton team. Things are going well and we’re all looking forward to raising the standards.
“Like everyone else in the under-18s, one of my targets is getting as many games as possible for the under-21s - and also in the NextGen Series, which will give us all valuable experience against international teams. That gives us a chance to measure our standards against some of the best teams in Europe. Because the NextGen Series is an under-19 competition, we have got a good chance of being involved.”
The youngster is known for his power and strength, but also his versatility. “I prefer playing right back because you are always involved and can help the attack,” he says.
“In pre-season we played against Chelsea and I scored the winner from right back. But I can play at centre back and central midfield, and I’m happy to be versatile and play wherever I’m required. It’s all great experience that will help my development as a footballer, and Arsenal will decide where they believe suits me best at the moment. If the coaches have the confidence of playing me in a variety of positions that will hopefully mean I get the chance to play more games. I want to play as often as possible and I don’t mind where."
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Which school did you go to?
When did you first play for Arsenal?
At under-13 level
Brothers and sisters?
Two brothers, two sisters
Have you represented your country?
Yes, in the Under-17 World Cup
Tell us another sport you are good at?
I can rap
IN YOUR DREAMS
Who plays you in a film?
Who are you stuck on a desert island with?
Who do you record a single with?
Giggs - the rapper
What meal can you eat every day?
What show is always on TV?
Match of the Day
Where in the world would you live?
Which footballer teaches you all of his skills?
ON YOUR MARKS
Give us a mark out of ten for the following aspects of your game:
Right foot - 9 Left foot - 7 Heading - 9 Passing - 8 Shooting - 5 Tackling - 9 Vision - 9