Despite finding the cockney accent difficult to understand at first, Hector Bellerin revealed recently that he’s never felt home-sick at Arsenal.
The Spaniard came to north London at the tender age of 16 after only ever having played for Barcelona’s youth system and although you’d find it hard to believe now, considering his hybrid Spanish-cockney dialect, he found it hard to understand at first.
Speaking with Guillem Balague in an exclusive interview with Talksport, the right-back revealed what it was like moving here at such a young age, away from his family and most of his friends.
“For me, I was lucky to make that step with a player that was with me since 8 years old, Jon Toral,” he said.
“That made it easier, having someone that knows you who is your friend, but it was hard as well.
“On the first day I remember going to a very small hotel close to the house we were going to stay in. I met with the family, who showed us where we would live. On that same night, I remember having dinner with our parents, and they were leaving the next morning. My mum was crying. Leaving her 16-year-old in another country must have been hard but I was initially like: ‘I was only two hours away.’
“At the beginning, I was really excited. You’re not even thinking what you’re leaving behind. I just wanted to play football; it was a new experience but once you’re there you realise what a big step that was.
“It was always really positive for me since the first day I was at the club. I never felt home-sick. The club was really helpful in terms of getting my parents to visit me, it made everything easier.
“Arsenal said that whenever my parents need to come to just let them know. For a club like Arsenal, spending a few quid on flight tickets is not that much but it was really nice to see how the club was taking care of the players.
“I used to get really good grades in school at English. I thought: ‘I’m going to kill it, people are going to think “This guy’s English”.
“As soon as I get there, the taxi guy is like: ‘You alright mate?’ in a cockney accent and I’m thinking: ‘What is that? I don’t understand what he’s saying’. So it was hard at the beginning. I could formulate sentences but understanding the different accents was hard.”
In the five years he’s been at the club, Bellerin has gone from the u21s to one of the first names on the starting XI’s team sheet. His speed, professionalism and willingness to learn and adapt have been huge. His maturity shines through in interviews and it makes you wonder whether his big move as a youngster influenced this, or whether it was his level head that allowed him to transition with such ease.