Granit Xhaka has credited his father for his mental toughness.
The Swiss midfielder opened up about his father’s past in an interview with the Guardian.
The 25-year-old recalled the story of when his father spent three years as a political prisoner in Yugoslavia, and how he became his role model in life.
“As far as I know, his first few months in jail were OK,” Xhaka said. “But then the beatings started.
“As his son, the story is something that touches me very deeply – it is really, really in my heart.
“To describe my dad properly, you have to appreciate the full depth of it. It’s so tragic. I sometimes ask him: ‘Tell it to me again,’ but I still don’t think he has revealed all of it. There have always been silent moments where I’ve felt he has swallowed something and not spilled out the truth. Maybe it was just too much and he wanted to spare his kids all the grief.
“My dad showed an incredible strength and Taulant [his brother] and I have grown up with his mental strength.
“We had this idol, this role model, who taught us that you have to be strong to achieve things. So we grew up very strong. It’s why on the pitch, we have this mental strength to get over things and really go for it.”
Xhaka went on to address the criticism that he and his Arsenal teammates have received in recent years, especially after failing to qualify for the Champions League last season.
Much like the team’s, the midfielder’s performances haven’t been as consistent as they could have been.
He explained how he hates losing and gives more thought to defeat than he ever did before.
Xhaka was sent off twice in his first season for Arsenal, which garnered him the reputation for being too reckless in midfield. While he acknowledged that some of it is his fault, he believed that he could have gotten away with more in English football.
“I thought football in England was supposed to be a lot tougher,” he admitted.
“I accept the Burnley decision but not Swansea. I was more surprised than angry at first. I’ve always watched the Premier League and I think a lot of fouls that are whistled for today were not given in the past.”
Often criticised for his defensive skills but praised for his passing, Xhaka admitted he was more like a “fake 10” than a defensive midfielder. It’ll be interesting to see if Arsene Wenger decides to play the 25-year-old in a more advanced position in the future, although with the midfield options on hand, I don’t see that happening.