Mandela Keita did not expect selection for the Red Devils: “Arthur Vermeeren was the first to congratulate me”

© Jan Van der Perre

Mandela Keita does, Arthur Vermeeren does not. After Toby Alderweireld last season, national champion Antwerp once again delivered a Red Devil, although it is not the name everyone expected. At coach Mark van Bommel’s press chat on Friday afternoon, the selection of Keita and the non-selection of Vermeeren was the topic of discussion. What’s more, the brand new Red Devil came to sit comfortably.

Surprise at the weekly press chat in Antwerp. Normally only coach Mark van Bommel speaks to the press, but new Red Devil Mandela Keita was also present for the occasion. “I expected a selection from the U21s, so I was surprised with my selection for the Red Devils.”

Keita wasn’t the only one who was surprised. Many football followers had expected a selection for Arthur Vermeeren. “The first to congratulate me was Arthur. He told me I really deserved it. Arthur is a smart boy who always works hard. He wasn’t really disappointed, even though everyone wants to be there. We are good friends off the field and he really granted me this selection,” said Keita, who has also received congratulations from his captain, Toby Alderweireld.

A year ago, Keita was still on the bench at OH Leuven. He is now champion with Antwerp and has received his first selection for the national team. Talk about a rapid advance. “I owe this to Antwerp. The technical staff and the players around me have given me a lot of confidence. I am very grateful to them.”

And what now? Will Keita be nervous with the national team, where several international stars are active? No, I always remain calm. I hope for a smooth integration into the group and I hope to learn a lot from the very good players and to show who I am.”

“Arthur and Mandy both deserve a selection.”

Mark van Bommel

Trainer Antwerp

Those were Keita’s first words as a Red Devil. Then his coach took over. “It’s great for Mandela that he can take this step. He joined here in the winter and has immediately raised his level,” Mark van Bommel was happy for his midfielder.

After Toby Alderweireld, the Great Old once again has a player in the Belgian national team. Although there could have been two. “It’s great for Antwerp that we have a Red Devil with us. I work with Arthur every day (Vermeeren, ed.) and Mandy (Mandela Keita, red.) and they both deserve it. It’s only a matter of time before Arthur comes along. This is not to say that he has to be there now. The coach (national coach Domenico Tedesco, ed.) makes that decision. But I think they are both capable of being Red Devils.”


READ ALSO. Teetotaler who dreamed of the Golden Ball as a child: who is brand new Red Devil, Mandela Keita?

When announcing his selection, the national coach indicated that he chose Keita because he has more physical strength. “I don’t know what Domenico wants and needs. Each coach selects the players with whom he thinks he has the greatest chance of winning. Arthur and Mandy both have their qualities and they suit each other. If you look purely at their profiles, they are not that different. They are both intelligent players, but with Arthur it may be a little more difficult to make a mark. The national coach has now chosen Mandy and not Arthur, but that does not mean that one is inferior to the other.”

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