Balázs Dzsudzsák is no stranger to shouldering responsibility for his nation – and the former Hungary captain has some priceless advice for the stars of the future.
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Few players can boast an international career like Balázs Dzsudzsák’s. Having started at under-17 level, the attacking midfielder’s fierce left foot, dribbling prowess and set-piece ability soon made him a mainstay of Hungary’s senior national team. Proudly donning the captain’s armband at UEFA EURO 2016, he went on to finish his international stint with a record 109 caps. Here, he tells shares his words of wisdom for the players appearing at this year’s Under-17 tournament.
How much are you looking forward to the Under-17 EURO?
I am waiting very eagerly, just like a kid. I am very excited. I am sure that the tournament itself will be a big success and I also hope that Hungary will do well. In fact, I even agreed with our head coach to visit the team during their preparations; I will try to share some useful experiences I had throughout my career that can be useful for them during the tournament.
What are your fondest memories of playing for the U17s?
Looking back to the 2003 Under-17 Championship, I just realised that we didn’t manage to win any games. I remember that we lost against the hosts, Portugal, and I remember that the atmosphere of the tournament, the country, the hospitality was positive. Twenty years have passed, but there is a big conclusion that I can share. I didn’t score at that tournament and we didn’t win any matches but now I am here as the most-capped Hungarian player. So even if a youth tournament doesn’t turn out the way we wish, it doesn’t mean that later we cannot achieve big things.
What did it feel like to pull on the national team jersey for the first time at that age?
It is special and always has been. I have had this question many times during my career and I always say that, irrespective of age, it is impossible to describe what wearing the national team’s jersey meant to me. And this was the same when I was a young kid playing for the Under-17 national team.
It’s the 20th anniversary of the 2003 U17 EURO you played in – what did you learn about the demands of tournament play?
It was a special experience. Such tournaments teach you how to keep in shape every third day when there is a match, and how consistent your performance can be during games that are played so close to each other. Besides the physical part, it also teaches you how to handle mental pressure. This tournament at such an age is a huge step in a player’s life. If you take into account that huge clubs are scouting at this tournament, it is even more demanding. So with a great performance you can create fantastic opportunities for yourself.
What advice would you like to give to the players at this year's tournament?
Enjoy it! They should look at it as a fantastic opportunity but obviously they must keep their responsibilities in mind as well, since they represent their countries and their people. At the same time, they should have confidence and they shouldn’t be afraid of the mistakes they might commit. If they can work well as a group then they will be able to achieve a strong result, for sure.