Wijnaldum simply wants a ball at his feet

One of the stars of the tournament so far, Netherlands winger Georginio Wijnaldum discusses missing out on UEFA EURO 2012, his mum and playing with a smile on his face.

Georginio Wijnaldum's right arm tells you all you need to know. Emblazoned with tattoos of the names of various family members, it is the angel with a ball in its hand that best sums up this genial 22-year-old. "I'm so happy I can play football as not everybody has this chance."

Indeed, many youngsters would give their right arm to be in Wijnaldum's shoes. Already a full international, a PSV Eindhoven regular and joint-leading scorer at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, this is a player who will not forget his roots any time soon.

UEFA.com: There has been some impressive football from the Netherlands in this tournament. Does Cor Pot encourage you to express yourselves?

Georginio Wijnaldum: As a team we always try to score goals, and we have been lucky enough to score lots in two games. We hope that continues. We are doing well now but we can always do better. We try to play beautiful football and show the world how good we are.

From the youth teams you play a 4-3-3 system [in the Netherlands], and that's what we play now. Every player in the team has played the 4-3-3 system since youth, so it's easy for us to play that way.

UEFA.com: What is your role in the team? You often stay wide, but you also come in to support the striker.

Wijnaldum: Yes, I am a right winger here, but I have the freedom to come inside and take the ball. That's how I scored my two goals... took the ball in the middle, came inside and shot. [Pot] wants us to shoot so we can score a lot of goals.

Georginio Wijnaldum has two goals
Georginio Wijnaldum has two goals©Getty Images

UEFA.com: I noticed that when you scored your goals you immediately ran to the bench to celebrate. Is it a very tight squad?

Wijnaldum: Yes, we are close with each other. We have been together for almost two years. After a goal we want to celebrate with each other, with all of the players. That's why almost everybody who scores runs to the bench to celebrate.

UEFA.com: You were involved with the senior squad but missed out on UEFA EURO 2012. How disappointing was that?

Wijnaldum: I was training for EURO 2012 and the coach said to me I was not in the squad. I was very disappointed. But 30 minutes later the U21s coach called me and asked if I wanted to play two qualifiers. That's what I did. It was not easy for me to come back, because you want to play at EURO 2012, but because I have a lot of friends here that made it easier.

UEFA.com: How was it being involved with the senior side?

Wijnaldum: Great. You have [Robin] van Persie there, [Arjen] Robben, [Wesley] Sneijder, [Rafael] van der Vaart, and you can learn a lot from the players. It's not specifically the players who play in your position; you can learn from everybody. They have played at a lot of clubs, so they know what you must do to become a big player.

UEFA.com: Going back to the beginning of your career... do your first club Sparta Rotterdam still have a big place in your heart?

Wijnaldum: Of course. They helped me a lot, not only with football but also with school. We didn't have a car when I was young, so it was difficult for me to go to the club. They had a chauffeur for me, and they drove me to school and then to the club. But also Feyenoord did a lot for me.

UEFA.com: I understand that when you moved from Feyenoord to PSV you donated some money to the club. Is that right?

Wijnaldum: They were great to me and they always took care of me. No matter what I asked they gave it to me. My mother lived in Amsterdam at the time and I wanted her close to me as I was living in Rotterdam. The club gave me a house for her so she could live in Rotterdam. That's why I'm so thankful to Feyenoord.

Georginio Wijnaldum at the team hotel
Georginio Wijnaldum at the team hotel©Sportsfile

UEFA.com: Did it make a big difference to have your mother with you?

Wijnaldum: I think it is always good for a boy to have his mother with him. I love my mother, she is always good for me, and if she is there with me I feel happy. I think she was [the biggest] influence, because she was always there for me. But she didn't do it alone, I had my uncle with me, my grandma and my aunts; we do it together, we are a close family, and we help each other where we can.

My mother is not only my mother, she is also my friend. We make jokes with each other. She is a young woman who loves her sons, and has fun with them. That is why I love her.

UEFA.com: It seems important for you to play football with a smile on your face ...

Wijnaldum: Yes, of course. I love soccer very much, but it is important for me to have pleasure in a game; if I don't have pleasure, I don't care about playing football. Most of the time I am glad when I am on the field, when I can play with the ball.

UEFA.com: If you were not a professional footballer, you would still be playing the game with your friends?

Wijnaldum: Yes. In my free time when I am at home and my nephews and cousins come, then we play football. My whole life is football now and I cannot do anything else.

I want to spend most of my free time with my family and friends. I don't see them a lot as I am now living in Eindhoven, and they all live in Rotterdam. They also love football, which is why we are thinking about football at every moment of the day.