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WATCH: Passionate Zaha talks openly about his upbringing

20 October 2020

Speaking with Sky Sports as part of their 'football icons' series ahead of the Premier League's opening No Room for Racism weekend, Wilfried Zaha reflected on his earlier years as an aspiring footballer, explaining the sacrifices he and his family made to secure the "number one goal".

Throughout the interview, Zaha spoke with an almost inhuman passion for football, something he has carried since childhood.

But his insatiable appetite for sporting success makes sense when the Palace talisman discusses his father.

"The main person who followed me around every single day was my dad," he said. "He took me to training through snow, through rain. My dad loved football as well but he knew how much I loved football so, even if he had to take me to training in a banger - the cars we used to go to training in is crazy.

"We used to break down, push the cars. My dad’s like 70 - so he was doing it when he was old. But it was: ‘I know how much he loves it, so I’ll do whatever.’"

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This attitude today reflects itself in Zaha Jnr, who has amassed over 380 professional appearances. The Ivorian explains his mindset from an early age, revealing a staggering desire to achieve: 

"Football was my number one goal. Then just growing up where I was, there weren’t that many opportunities and it made me even more fixated on accomplishing my dream. It pushed me even more.

"When your mindset is always that goal, I don’t think you can fail because I lived, breathed, ate football. There was nothing else. I feel like there’s no way you can fail if that’s all you think about constantly and that’s all you practice. There’s no way.

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"When I speak to people, give advice to younger footballers, it’s just like: 'When that’s all you think about - when you go to sleep it’s football, wake up and it’s football - there’s no way you can fail. That’s your number one goal.'

"Are you willing to sacrifice these parties and so many different things? I missed so many parties and I used to think: ‘Oh my God, that’s the party of the year.’ As you grow up you realise there’s a party every other day, but these opportunities for you to reach your goal don’t come every day.

"I never had a day where I thought I don’t fancy it. No matter what. It’s football - the love I have for football is unbelievable so there was never a time where I’d look outside, even if it’s raining, whatever, it don’t make a difference. I just had to get there and do what I have to do."

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Raised in Thornton Heath and spending the vast majority of his life in south London, Zaha is proud of his roots in the nation's capital. He ended his time with Sky by explaining what it is that makes south London such a hub for talented footballers and other accomplished individuals.

"In south London there are so many places - so many caged places - where you go and you have to use skills to get out of so many situations," he reflected. "So I feel like that’s what made me the footballer I am today. 

"There’s so much talent, so much talent in south London and everyone’s starting to discover it more and more. Being from south London, I’m very proud."

The feeling's mutual, we're sure.

You can now watch the full Zaha interview for free on Palace TV here.

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