Leon Bailey has had a spectacular start to his debut UEFA Europa League campaign for Genk and he spoke to UEFA.com about adapting to Belgian life and making Jamaica proud.
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Leon Bailey has had a spectacular start to his debut UEFA Europa League campaign with Genk.
The 19-year-old winger has made our team of the week on both opening matchdays, having scored twice in the 3-2 loss at Rapid Wien and then once as Genk overcame Sassuolo 3-1, adding to his three goals in qualifying.
Bailey came to Genk from Slovak side Trenčín last year, following an earlier spell with the Belgian club's academy. His rise has not gone unnoticed in his homeland of Jamaica, and Bailey spoke to UEFA.com about adapting to life in Belgium and the secret behind his superb UEFA Europa League form which leaves him high in the FedEx Performance Zone rankings.
UEFA.com: You grew up in Jamaica. How difficult, or easy, has it been to adapt to life in Belgium?
Leon Bailey: The lifestyles in Jamaica and here are totally different. In Jamaica we're more tough and hard, and hard with each other, and I think that makes us strong individuals.
I think when I came here I had to restart again, and learn the culture. I had to adapt very fast – and I think I did that very well.
I learned from others, and that's something I've been doing since I was very young. I tend to learn from others and make myself much better.
I learned the culture very well. I watched others and saw how they do things and I adapted, just so I could cope with everybody else – not, say, be a Belgian but be part of the lifestyle.
UEFA.com: Now you are playing in Europe and in the UEFA Europa League. On your debut you scored a great goal. How did that feel?
Bailey: Those feelings are extraordinary, you know; it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I've always dreamt of playing at the top, and to score goals like that and to see where I'm coming from, it's really a major accomplishment.
I think I've made a lot of people proud, and I hope it will continue like this. I think I'm on the right path, I just need to stay focused and concentrated to move on further.
UEFA.com: You said you make a lot of people proud ...
Bailey: Not a lot of top players from Jamaica have made it so big as a professional. For me, I'm feeling great to actually make a lot of people smile and enjoy the way I play.
For Jamaica, it makes me very proud standing up here in Europe representing my country. Even though I don't represent them as a nationality, I still represent Jamaica and it makes me proud inside.
UEFA.com: Do you know if it gets a lot of attention in Jamaica as well?
Bailey: Yes, it gets a lot of attention. A lot of people go on the internet for the news in Jamaica, people respect what I'm doing and they're 100% behind me. They're really supportive.
UEFA.com: After matchday two you were in the top three of the FedEx Performance Zone. What do you do to stay in form, do you do anything special?
Bailey: I just tend to stay focused and just work hard in training. I believe if you put in hard work, it's going to pay off some time.
I think if you're very focused in training and working hard during the games, you're going to do the same: what you practise is what you're going to show on the pitch.
So whatever you practise in training, you also need to do it on the pitch. That's very important for me, and I think that's what I've been doing.