‘Picking up a Man United shirt was the biggest mistake in my life’, says Timo Mertesacker
Timo Mertesacker couldn’t be prouder of his big brother Per right now. The 26-year-old told Gooner Talk how happy the Mertesacker’s were ‘to be a part of the Arsenal family’ and revealed that he almost ended up in the same career as the Gunners’ defender.
Mertesacker, who played in the same youth team as his brother, is also the manager of his own real estate firm and works alongside Per’s former Werder Bremen team-mate Clemens Fritz.
The Mertesacker’s are no strangers to England or English football, having used to regularly visit their auntie as children in Plymouth where they would bring back football shirts to Germany as souvenirs.
Per would pick the Arsenal jersey while Timo opted for the Manchester United shirt.
Does he regret that decision now?
“The biggest mistake in my life”, joked Mertesacker.
“We were in Plymouth visiting our aunt. It was random – I picked the United shirt because I liked the look of the Devil on the crest. Per picked the Arsenal shirt. What a coincidence eh?”
“I used to be a Man United fan during the ‘Golden Years’ of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs. I changed [my team] in the early 2000s to [Werder] Bremen and obviously I’ve always been a big supporter of Hannover 96.”
Timo himself still plays football at amateur level for TSV Pattensen, the Hanover-based club where Per begun his career. But his own course could have been very different if it wasn’t for a long-term back injury during his youth team days with Hannover.
“Per and myself played football very often in the youth teams at Hannover. In the youth teams you couldn’t see that he would make it as a professional footballer but at around the age of 19 he did well, then got his breakthrough with a contract at Hannover.
“Similarly for me, I was quite good in the youth teams. We trained for 3-4 times a week at Hannover but I struggled with back problems when I was 16/17-years-old – that kept me out for 2 years.”
And what about Per? The former Werder Bremen defender recently signed a three year contract extension with Arsenal following an impressive array of performances in the centre of the Gunners’ defence – a stark turnaround for a player who was criticised in his first season at Emirates Stadium.
“He’s got new-found confidence this year, especially in 2013. He’s doing well – he could teach me a lot.
“He shows his commitment right now to win titles. He does everything to win and that’s why he’s just extended his contract.
“It’s fantastic how he managed to turn it around after a tough first season. It was impressive for me. Right now we are proud to be part of the Arsenal family.”
Timo, who says he is now a self-confessed Gooner, has been to several Arsenal away games in recent seasons and mentioned the story of one of his early Premier League experiences at Wigan where he told Gooners who his brother was for the first time.
“The coach stopped at Wigan and I went out and asked some Arsenal fans if I could hang around with them. I told them that my brother plays for Arsenal and they asked if I was Thomas Eisfeld’s brother!
“I laughed for 10 minutes about it – they didn’t believe that he [Per] was really my brother at first.”
Arsenal’s away support certainly gets Timo’s approval. He doesn’t join in with the humorous ‘Big Fu***ng German’ chants, but says that he relishes in the opportunity to meet fellow Gooners and enjoy the passionate atmosphere of English football.
“Fantastic. I admire it. My first game was Milan away where there was a big defeat [0-4] and Thierry Henry had his last game at Arsenal. For the first time I went to Wigan and Swansea – the atmosphere was fantastic. It’s also a really good way to improve my English.
“It’s not my style to cheer just for Per. I support the team and I’m happy that I’ve made friends with some Gooners along the away.
“It’s a fantastic experience being with the away fans”.