Mathieu Flamini will face his former club Marseille on Tuesday night - the team he left to join Arsenal for the first time in 2004.
In this extract from the official matchday programme, Mathieu remembers his childhood and the first steps of his football career.
"I grew up in France, in Marseilles. We were about half an hour from the centre of the city so we had countryside and green around us.
"The club has a role and an influence beyond just football. People might not be able to eat but they get to the stadium for the game"
"I played lots of sport when I was young: tennis and judo as well as football. I was already playing football at school when I was six or seven years old. I could never sit still. I always had a football with me and we’d play every break time, and come back to our classes sweating!
"We had Wednesday afternoons off and the grandmother of one of my school mates used to look after the two of us. Instead of just keeping us at her house, she decided to take us to play football and the nearest place to where we lived was the little stadium where the kids from Marseille used to train. That’s where I started.
"It was just something I enjoyed like any other kid. But Marseilles is the biggest club in France and so, even though we were young, those Wednesday afternoons were already very well-organised. We just went along and enjoyed playing with all the other kids for fun, but there were coaches there keeping an eye on us, too.
"As time went on, football became more and more important. Before I knew it - by the time I was 10 or 11 - football had become a big, big part of my life. As I got older, more and more often I was off to train and play for my team.
"Olympique, the football club, is very important to Marseilles. It’s something everybody in the city feels a part of. The club has a role and an influence beyond just football. People might not be able to eat but they get to the stadium for the game.
"Marseilles is a port city and people come from all over the world to settle there. The football club is like a central point: wherever you’re from, whatever your background, you can feel the passion drawing you to the football club. It makes you feel a part of the city: whoever you are, as soon as you support the team, it’s as if you’ve been adopted by Marseilles.
"So, when I was young, I was a big fan of the team, like anybody else in Marseilles. But, even though I was playing for one of the young teams, I never really imagined being able to play for the club."
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