There are two leading schools of football in the Netherlands at Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. It's fair to say that most of the leading Oranje talent take their first steps in one of those two famous youth academies, and Ibrahim Afellay is no exception.

Born in Utrecht, it took rather longer than one might have expected before PSV talent-spotters had the son of Moroccan immigrants on their radar. He signed for them as a 17-year-old after being spotted kicking a ball around in the multi-cultural Overvecht district. However, he soon made up for lost time.

Full circle


Afellay completed his senior debut only months after signing terms for PSV, playing in a domestic cup tie with NAC Breda before being blooded in the Eredivisie ten days later against FC Twente. It took him 18 months before before he fully established himself in the first team, ironically making his Champions League debut against his current club Schalke.

Soon after impressing against the Royal Blues, he was given the chance to show the then Bondscoach Bert van Marwijk his ability. The nimble winger won his first call-up to the national team and went on to makie his debut in 2007, after also receiving an invite to feature for the Morocco national team. Ultimately, he accepted the more daunting challenge of making the breakthrough with the Oranje, a choice he would never regret.

Proud Berber


As proudly as he wears the Netherlands shirt, however, Afellay has never forgotten his Berber background. When he was named as Holland's young player of the year in 2007 and, as a reward, asked to nominate the location for the building of a football pitch for disadvantaged youths, he chose Al Hoceima, the town from where his family originate in northern Morocco.

Being born in Holland, his decision to represent them at international level was not a snub over his roots and family heritage. In fact, he rarely misses an opportunity to show his pride at being a Berber, waving their flag upon winning the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona in 2011. Afellay is now waving the Royal Blue flag, though, after joining Schalke on a season-long loan from Barcelona. The Dutch international is now hoping to dazzle the Gelsenkirchen faithful with his tricks, dribbles and maybe even another Champions League title before returning to Catalonia.