Aethan Yohannes: AZ’s Captain America

Aethan Yohannes: AZ’s Captain America

Published on 22 mei 19, 22:49

ZAANSTAD- One year ago Aethan Yohannes moved from regional team Buitenveldert to AZ Alkmaar. Now he’s the captain of USA's U15 squad. The multi-functional midfielder talks about playing for the national team and adapting to a new environment.

Congrats on your debut, Aethan! How did it feel to make your first appearance in the national team?
“I’m obviously very happy with my debut. It's a great opportunity to represent my country and it feels good to have played my first matches for the national team.”

What was your first thought when you heard you were in the final squad?
“I was surprised, really… I didn't know there were matches to be played, but obviously I was very happy and excited to be part of the team. I first told my parents. They congratulated me and told me it’s really something big. This is not just for me, it’s for my family as well and of course to make my country proud.”

You played the Torneo delle Nazioni in Italy. How did it go?
“We won our group match against India, but were defeated by Slovenia and eventual cup winners Mexico. Then we played two more matches, against England en Norway. We won both, so we ended the tournament pretty good.”

Every squad is a unique mix of characters and has it’s own dynamic. Did you need time to get used to your new teammates?
“Not really. It’s easy to communicate, get along and create a bond when you all speak the same language. Also I already knew most of the guys from two training camps we had earlier this season in California.”

You individually impressed coach Steve Klein, as he made you the captain of the team. That must have filled you with great pride…
“When I walked into the dressing room, I heard I was going to play as the captain. For me that’s a big opportunity, I was happy to lead the team and be one of the main players to wear the badge. All in all it was a really good experience to represent my country and sing the national anthem. I had a good time both on and off the pitch. I think I made a good impression, so I hope to be there when we play the Concacaf Tournament in august. I’m gonna keep improving myself at AZ to try and stay at the national team.”

One year ago you played at Buitenveldert, and now you’re here. Aren’t you amazed about how fast things are going?
“Almost all my life I lived in America, where I last played for DC United. Still, moving to AZ from Buitenveldert was a big step. Since then I learned a lot and went through a transition into playing the AZ style of football. The intensity and the speed of the game are way bigger, but AZ helped me get used to it with a customized program in which I made less training hours in the first months of the season. The club gave me all the time to get to the required level. In six months I improved myself a lot as a soccer player and now I’m completely adapted to the regular training program of the club. Also I’ve learned about the sacrifices you have to make to succeed and what it takes to be a pro. I’m talking about stuff you have to focus on off the pitch, like nutrition and sleep. Next season I want to keep improving myself at the U16 teams of AZ and America.”

In your first year at the AFAS Trainingscomplex you can still win a big prize: the Dutch U15 Cup. Looking forward to the final against Ajax?
“Yes, we are all very excited! It’s a great opportunity to win a trophy and we are preparing ourselves in the best way we can. We have our full focus on winning the final.”

Text: AZ Media / Sven Bersee
Photography: Herbert Dekkers