- Ahmed Kutucu was called up to the Turkey U-17 squad just two weeks before the tournament
- After his goal against New Zealand, he made the shape of a heart for his mother and family
- “We’ve got a lot left to give, and we’ll make up for this result in the next match,” he said
In the run up to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, Turkey coach Mehmet Hacioglu, whose team arrived in India with major ambitions, added a player to his squad that he had not called upon during the qualifying campaign. While there may have been raised eyebrows at the time, the player’s performance in the opening match will likely have silenced any doubters.
The young man in question, Ahmed Kutucu, scored his team’s opening goal of the competition against New Zealand on Friday, powering home a header from a corner that gave Turkey – who had dominated the match up to that point – a deserved lead.
“It was a great start for me,” the goalscorer told FIFA.com after the match. “I joined up with the squad a few days ago and I was waiting to make my first appearance. I had a feeling that I might score today. When the ball came across, I got away from my marker and met it quite firmly with my head. I was really happy that it worked out how I’d planned.”
As for the heart shape that he formed with his hands while celebrating the goal, he explained: “It was for my mother. I wanted to thank her and all my family for the support they’ve given me since my career began.”
Kutucu was born and raised in Gelsenkirchen, in Germany, where he became a huge fan of Schalke 04, the city’s major football club. He currently plays for Die Königsblauen’s U-17 team. “Schalke are a big team in Germany,” he said. “I’ve followed them since I was a little boy, and I really hope that one day I’ll have a chance to play for their senior side. I want to use what I’ve learned with my club to help Turkey enjoy success here. I’m going to give it 100 per cent.”
Although the talented forward found the net, he was less than satisfied with the final result (1-1) in Navi Mumbai. “If you’d told me that I wouldn’t score but that we’d win, I’d have been perfectly happy,” he explained. “The most important thing is that the team wins and makes progress in the competition. I would have been delighted if my goal had enabled us to do that. We’re going to try to put this result behind us and come back stronger in our next match.”
During the post-match press conference, Hacioglu paid tribute to the new arrival. “I congratulated him on his goal,” he said. “Ahmed has tremendous potential. He can still develop and become a great professional player.”
Before getting back on the bus with his team-mates, Kutucu was asked a brief question about role models. “In life, my role model is my father,” he explained. “He always inspires me. On the pitch, there’s not one particular player that I admire. There are a lot that I want to learn from, though.”