Kenny Thompson thrilled as child prodigy Xavi Simons selected for Dutch World Cup squad
Some keen-eyed football fans may have noticed a familiar name in the Holland squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Xavi Simons was at Barcelona’s Academy nearly a decade ago when he made two trips to Bermuda as part of North Village coach Kenny Thompson’s K-Tech programme and has been on a meteoric rise, playing seven first-team matches for Paris Saint Germain before moving to PSV Eindhoven.
Thompson has kept in touch with Simons and his family and is thrilled that the child prodighy has matured into a World cup player with 8 goals in 14 games for PSV this season enough to force his way into Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch squad.
“It’s incredible and I’m really happy for him,” Thompson said. “I thought that there might have been an outside chance when I saw his name in the provisional list and then with his performances for PSV this season, I thought there was a really good chance. A lot of Bermudians have been following him because of him visiting Bermuda on a couple of occasions as part of the summer programme and so everybody is pleased for him.”
While it’s impossible to predict the future path of a nascent talent, Thompson was certain he’d seen a special player when he first saw him in Spain.
“From the first time I saw him, when I was at Barcelona’s training centre on an observation level, what struck me was that I could tell from his body language that he was something special,” Thompson said.
“He just moved in a certain way that spoke volumes about the way he could play football and having watched his training session that evening he proved it on the pitch.”
But as a coach, Thompson knows that talent only gets you so far and he was struck by Simons’ application and commitment
“I think the message to kids in Bermuda is not so much looking at where he is at this time but to understand how he got to this point,” Thompson said.
“He’s 19 years old but from the time I’ve known him he has been a hard worker, very focused on being the absolute best he could be in football. It’s been a journey of hard work, commitment, focus and it looks to us like it’s been smooth sailing but if you speak to him and his family, they will be the first to say it’s been a difficult road but his mentality has got him to where he is now.”
Simons has a huge personality to go alongside his huge talent and with more than four million followers on Instagram, he has the power to influence those even younger than him.
“That’s a very important part of it having the personality to go with the athleticism part of whatever sport it is,” Thompson said.
“The individual must have a vibrant personality and be the type of person who who can fit into a group wherever he is in the world. He made a lot of friends here, some of whom keep in touch with him today through social media. He had the personality to know how to conduct himself around boys and girls his age and he was also able to know how to conduct himself around adults and understanding what was required of him.