Every matchday programme features an exclusive feature with one of our stars of the future. In a recent edition, young defender Lino Sousa discussed moving from Portugal to the UK, futsal, how kicking a can launched his career and more.
My earliest memory of football growing up was when I lived in Portugal. I was about five or six and started playing futsal three or four times every week after school, just for fun, it was nothing too serious.
I used to watch football growing up and played on my PlayStation, but in terms of playing, it was always futsal before football. It’s actually quite common for kids growing up in Portugal to play futsal. An older cousin of mine used to play futsal for Benfica and I looked up to him.
I moved from Lisbon to Wolverhampton when I was eight in 2013 and it was my uncle who really pushed my mum to get me to a Sunday League club. It’s actually a funny story! He saw me kick a can when I was just walking down the street and saw something in the technique and the way I kicked it. He told my mum and then he got me to a Sunday league club in Birmingham called Ash Fire FC, but now it’s called Edgbaston Eagles. I played there for something like eight months, but then we couldn’t fill in the forms for me to play in the next season because we were away on holiday. Then I was offered a trial at West Brom when I was nine, they thought I was good enough and that’s how it all started.
The first time I went on trial there was a bit of a disaster. On the first day, I wore metal studs because I didn’t know we were playing on astroturf! One of the kids snitched on me and I had to sit out for a bit because I couldn’t train with metal studs on the astro.
When I was in the under-10s at West Brom, I played with the under-12s, but that was just by chance. We were in at the same time as them, playing against the same team and I was just told to play with the under-12s, but I didn’t really understand what was going on. I just thought, ‘These lads look a bit taller than me!’
I’ve always been level-headed and humble, I’ve never thought I was better than anyone else, but I was always told from a young age that I was going to go far and had potential. As a kid you don’t really listen to it though, it’s just one of those things that goes in one ear and out the other! It’s nice to hear those things, but when you dwell on it, that’s when you become big-headed and I’m not like that. I came from humble beginnings.
I was 16 when I started a friendly against Watford for the under-23s, I played the whole game and did really well. That’s when it opened a few eyes to people at West Brom that I could play. I couldn’t really train with the under-23s because I was still in school, so I think I only trained with them maybe once during the week, but the next thing I know I got told I was travelling down to Newcastle to play with them. I was told I was starting, but I wasn’t really nervous, I was excited! It was so surreal because I was playing with all the lads who, when I was in the under-10s, they were in the under-16s. It was mad being on the same pitch as them, but then you switch into game mode and I did well.
I first heard about the Arsenal move in July or August, the backend of last season, but firstly it’s just interest, so you don’t really think anything of it. Then things just happened and moved forward, everything became more real and it was really exciting. My family and I spent hours and hours talking about the pros and cons of a move and what was best for me, but, at the end of the day, Arsenal is Arsenal. There’s a pathway there to the first team, you can see it, a lot of players have done it.
Obviously, it’s not an easy thing to do, but you’ve got to back yourself. It was crazy seeing how the move spread on social media. My phone was dead silent for a couple of months because I wasn’t playing, nobody was tagging me, I wasn’t posting anything and then out of nowhere, it just exploded, it was crazy! I had friends sending me things, my family members and people from abroad. I couldn’t say a word or repost it, it wasn’t scary, but it was just a bit of a shock, it became serious.
It’s a really nice feeling to see all the posts from fans, but my mum always reminds me to not get caught up in the social media buzz because your football has got to do the talking.
Sometimes I think to myself about where I’ve come from to where I am now and it’s crazy. To say that I’m an Arsenal player is a very surreal feeling and I take pride in that.
It’s not something I take lightly because now it’s not just my family that I’m representing, I’m representing Arsenal Football Club. This is a life that I chose and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and I just want to take my chance, impress and do what I do best on the pitch.
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