Dielan Ghafour: The 18-Year-Old Midfield Prospect at Go Ahead Eagles

With a professional contract secured at a young age, Dielan Ghafour reflects on his transition from the academy ranks, the sacrifices made, and his goals for the future with Go Ahead Eagles.

During the period when there is no football being played, this is the perfect moment to look back on the past season. We sat down with Dielan Ghafour, an 18-year-old midfielder for Go Ahead Eagles. Dielan has been with Status Pro Sport since the summer of 2023.

For those who don't know you yet, can you briefly tell us who Dielan is?

"I'm Dielan, 18 years old and I play at the Go Ahead Eagles academy. Normally I'm a quiet guy, but with friends I can also come up with crazy and spontaneous ideas and plans. Furthermore, I'm still working on my education which I'm finishing up, I'm in my last year now and then I'll be done."

How would you describe yourself as a player?

"As a player, I'm a hard worker who gives 100% effort in every duel. I win a lot of balls and then play the ball well to the right color. I'm a hard-working, ball-winning midfielder who starts the attacks."  

You are one of the first outfield players from the football academy to sign a professional contract with Go Ahead Eagles at a young age. What does this mean for you? Do you feel extra pressure now?

"It's a nice gesture from Go Ahead Eagles that they have the confidence in me to offer me a professional contract. In the beginning you notice that you're watched a bit more during matches and for example the training sessions with the first team. That brought quite a bit of pressure, you get more attention. Also a lot of younger players looking up to you and so on. Now it just feels normal to me, as if it's my job. I was also well received by players in the first team that I trained with."

What were the biggest challenges to get here?

"The biggest challenge was traveling to the training sessions from a young age. I started here in the Under-13 team. I was 12 years old then and had to leave home early on my own every day and came back late, while my friends were out playing. But I had only one dream: to become a professional footballer. So I went for it, despite the sacrifices I had to make. I just really enjoy playing football so then you're willing to give everything for it."

Do you think you're a role model for the younger generation?

"Yes, I think so. Everyone knows me from the academy, so I have an exemplary role. I want to show that youth players can make the step to the first team. In the beginning I got a lot of questions from younger players about how things go with the first team. You try to give those guys a boost by showing that if I can do it, they can too."

Last season you already joined the first team during the preseason and after that you were allowed to train with the first team twice a week. How was the transition from the academy to the first team?

"It was a big transition. In the beginning it was exciting because I didn't know anyone and was still young. I was only 17 when I was first allowed to join. But I felt better and better. The biggest differences were the behavior and that I had to become an adult quickly as a young player among the older ones. The level and mentality were also a step higher."

Next season you'll join the Under-21s. How will you approach the season?

"I hope to have a good season, to become a regular starter and to be an important player on the field, a real leader, which suits my position. To be a boss on and off the field."

Who are your biggest inspirations and role models?

"My biggest inspiration is Cristiano Ronaldo, if you look at what he does to still be so fit at this age. That's really something beautiful to see, someone who is willing to do everything to achieve his goals. Within the club, the coaches and fellow players were also very important for my development. They gave me self-confidence, which makes you able to grow faster in your development and with the players around you who guide you, that results in good development."

Last season you had to deal with a knee injury for which you also had to undergo surgery. How was this period for you?

"That was a tough period with a lot of doubts, I was just getting into a good rhythm and then you get such a setback. Then you do start to doubt whether you'll get back to your old level? During this period I got a lot of support from my friends, family and the physios at Go Ahead Eagles with whom I could talk a lot. I started training more in the gym to get stronger. After the surgery I still had problems for a long time, but the fitter I got, the better I played. It was tough, but with the support of people around me I got through it."

Next season you'll join the first team again during preseason for the second year in a row. What are your goals for the coming seasons?

"In the coming seasons I want to become an established player at Go Ahead Eagles. I want to train with the first team every day and be part of the match day squads. My big ambition is to become a regular starter in the first team."

During these periods with the first team you already indicated that you were well received. What is the best advice you've had from other players?

"The best advice was to always stay true to myself and show my own game. Not to want to play differently because I'm somewhere else, but just show my own qualities. Everyone constantly coaches each other so you pick that up quickly."

How did you experience Go Ahead Eagles achieving European football?

"It was weird to experience that as an outsider, but nice to see that they achieved their goal after hard work. They deserved it. Hopefully there will be a place for me in those European matches in the future."

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