Gedion Zelalem trained with Arsenal at London Colney for 10 days this summer. Zelalem’s father said a plan is in place for his son, a central midfielder, to join the Gunners system full-time when he turns 16 in January 2013.
Arsenal communications manager Dan Tolhurst told the Insider that Zelalem did join the club for workouts but no official agreement has been reached.
Zelalem plays for the Olney Soccer Club Rangers’ under-16 outfit. He’ll enroll at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md., next month and, as a freshman, plans to play for the varsity squad while continuing to compete for Olney.
Zelalem’s father is from Ethopia and in 1990 was granted asylum in Germany, where his son was born. Gedion was enrolled in Hertha Berlin’s youth program, his father said.
The family moved to the United States five years ago and settled in the Washington suburbs, where Gedion’s father works as a medical technician. Neither is a U.S. citizen. Gideon holds a German passport and speaks German fluently. He did attend a U.S. youth camp in California this year. However, because he is not naturalized, he is unlikely to become eligible for the United States in the near future.
His father would like him to represent Germany and has been working to make the German federation aware of his son’s ties.
“It’s my dream,” said Zelalem Woldyes. Gedion’s mother died in 2005 and Woldyes has since re-married. “I want to say thank you to the country that helped me. I’m grateful to Germany.”
With Olney Soccer Club, Gedion is coached by Matt Pilkington, an England native who played at George Washington University in 2000-01. Realizing he had a special talent on his team, Pilkington began searching for a way to get Gedion discovered by a foreign club. He eventually was put in touch with Danny Karbassiyoon, the former Arsenal prospect from Roanoke, Va., who is now the Gunners’ North American scout.
At the Dallas Cup, Arsenal youth scouts received a first-hand look at Gedion. “He’s a natural talent,” Pilkington said. “He has balance, vision, ideas.”
Gedion fared well during the Arsenal experience in England, his father said, but because he is under 16, isn’t in position to receive a formal offer. As a German citizen, he would qualify for an European Union work permit.
On his Facebook page, Gedion posted a photo of himself and his father posing with a No. 4 jersey — Cesc Fabregas’s former uniform — and Gunners Manager Arsene Wenger.