Get To Know: Ayman Sellouf
How I met Ayman Sellouf
The first time the name Ayman Sellouf rang out loud enough for me to pay attention was in May of this year. It was the fourth week of competition in the Canadian Premier League, Pacific FC was playing away against Ottawa, and for a rare occasion I wasn’t at TD Place. Even if he was involved in the second goal scored, it was definitely when it was his turn to find the back of the goal that Ayman caught my eye. I remember that day because it was the first time I was really curious to discover who he was, and if you’re reading these lines, maybe you felt the same.
Not only is the CPL a wonderful showcase for our Canadian players, I think it’s also a unique opportunity for the league’s supporters to discover foreign talent that we might never have had the chance to see in Canada. Ayman Sellouf is one of them. If we ask his teammates, they’ll tell us that he’s as impressive in training as he is in matches, and that he’s easy to play with. If we ask his opponents, they’ll confirm that he is, without a doubt, one of the talents to watch.
Even though the first time I met Ayman he gave me the impression of being an introvert, I quickly discovered while talking to him that he was a funny guy, close to his family, a reliable friend you could always count on and above all, someone authentic who wanted to tell me his story. I guess it’s now your turn to get to know him!
The 20 completely random questions
1. What made you fall in love with football?
What made me fall in love with football? My father. I think I was four years old – I have a brother who’s one year older than me – and my father loved football so he just put us there. I immediately loved it, to play with the ball and to do all kinds of things already when I was young so that was it, the influence of my father. My father grew up in Morocco, so he played, but he was nowhere near the professional level. If I believe his stories though – and I like to believe him – he was a great player.
Later I started going on YouTube to watch videos and the main player who made me fall in love with the game was Ronaldinho. Everyday before training I would go on YouTube and watch the same video. It was a seven minute compilation of Ronaldinho skills and then at training I had to go and do it.
2. When you signed in the CPL, it wasn’t your first professional contract. Can you take me through playing pro in the Netherlands and the difference between there and Canada?
Obviously, I think that the big difference is that the Netherlands is a big football country; football is the main sport. See, I call it football because it is how we call it there but I know in North America it’s called soccer, so I have to adjust! But yeah, the Netherlands are known for having good academies, good first teams, you know. Obviously with teams who did a great job in the past like Ajax,who won multiple Champions League.
I think I was 17 years old when I signed my first pro contract and I feel like people understand the game differently there. If I have to compare with my time so far in the CPL, I would say that it’s progressing and that it’s getting better, with people from all around the world who share their experience playing here and the players from Canada who share their own experience with us too. From a supporters’ point of view, the fans in the Netherlands are more critical!
3. What’s the career highlight you’re most proud of so far ?
Getting promoted with my team, NEC. We got promoted from the second league to the Eredivisie in the Netherlands. I would say that it’s the biggest achievement for me… yet!
4. What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken ?
Probably my move to Canada. I came to a place where I knew nothing about it; I knew nothing about the place where I live, the people that are here, or even how football is here. I knew a little about the game because I spoke with Bradley Vliet when he was at Cavalry. I also knew Pacific FC was a good team, that they had won the league but overall everything was still a surprise for me. It was also my first time moving away from home and immediately on the other side of the world so it’s definitely my biggest risk.
5. You can sign in your actual team a player you’ve already played with. Tell me who it is, when you shared the pitch together and why he is your choice.
I think I’m going to sign my friend, his name is Souffian El Karouani. He’s now a left-back at FC Utrecht in the first team so it would be a step down for him, but I would choose him. He’s my guy, I played with him multiple years in the youth at NEC and I see him as my brother. There’s also the fact that we are used to playing together and with him being a left back it really suits me.
6. If you’re playing an away match and you need to share your hotel room with a teammate, with whom do you want and don’t want to share it and why ?
Right now I share my room with Bradley Vliet. The only players I’ve shared a room with were the Dutch guys, him or Djenario Daniels. I get along with multiple teammates but if I had to choose one, I would keep Bradley. I like the fact that he’s also Dutch and that we can speak the same language. He’s calm and on his own, we can have conversations about multiple things; he understands me and I understand him. I think the player I couldn’t room with is Kieran Basket, and the only reason is because I’ve heard he goes to bed very early and I have to stay awake because I have to pray. There are five times in a day that I have to pray and one of the prayers is after he goes to sleep, so I don’t think it would work between me and him. I wouldn’t want to wake him up and I want my teammates to feel comfortable.
7. Do you have any rituals on game day ?
No. I don’t do that, because it’s against my beliefs, so I don’t really have a ritual that I have to do every time. I do things that are related to my religion, like when I step on the field I have three prayers that I do, right before the whistle. When everything is done I take a moment for myself and I do three prayers from my holy book, the Quran. I started this at a young age and I still do it !
I didn’t know that through religion you weren’t allowed to be superstitious.
You know what it is, it’s because with rituals you believe that if you do it, something good is going to happen, but I believe in God. I’m Muslim and all my faith is in God.
8. You’re playing a five-versus-five and the team has to be made with players you shared the pitch with. You need to include a goalkeeper and yourself, who else are you calling up?
For the goalkeeper it has to be someone from the Netherlands. I think the best goalkeeper I played with is a Dutch guy, I played with him at NEC and his name is Mattijs Branderhorst. He was also the goalkeeper with whom I got promoted and he now plays for FC Utrecht just like my friend. I always had a good relationship with him, he’s a good guy and the best goalkeeper I’ve played with. With me included, I have three spots left so I’ll take my guy, the left back Souffian, for all the previous reasons, but also because he’s capable of playing five-a-side; you have to think about this when you build your team you know !
With me up front I would add another player, his name is Jonathan Okita. He’s a Congolese-Belgian player and I also played with him in the Netherlands in the same team as the left-back and the goalkeeper. He now plays in Switzerland for FC Zurich and from the first day we played together, we immediately had a good relationship. He taught me many things, because when I first got with the team everything was new to me and since he’s older, he was like a big brother to me. I would always appreciate him for that and to this day, we still talk and he asks me about my games here and I do the same! For the last guy, I think I have to go with someone at Pacific FC. I might go with Steffen Yeates because he’s a quality player. He understands the game and especially in a five-a-side game you need someone who can play quick, one or two touches. Also in our regular training session, I like to play with him because he understands me and I understand him.
9. How would your friends describe you ?
I don’t know how they would describe me. I think I’m a friend who’s a good listener, I’ll listen to any stuff they’re going through. I can give advice about almost anything. I would also say I’m funny. When I’m with friends there’s always a moment where you just can’t stop laughing!
10. How many languages do you speak and how did you learn them ?
I speak three languages: Dutch, Arabic and English. I was born in the Netherlands, so I grew up with it! My parents are from Morocco and this is why I also speak Arabic. Ever since I was young, around five years old or something, every Sunday we went to school to learn Arabic. Every Sunday for three hours and I did that for maybe ten years, and obviously every summer we went to Morocco so I had to speak with my family. I would say that it’s my second language. And the third one is English, so obviously in the Netherlands you learn English from a young age. When I was ten years old we started with daily lessons and when I signed with the first team, I had to be able to speak with players that came from all around the world so I got better. Now being in Canada, I need to speak English too! At home it was a mix of Dutch and Arabic. Sometimes we would say a sentence in Dutch and then answer in Arabic. It might look chaotic but for whatever reason, it just flows !
11. What’s your go-to karaoke song ?
I have many songs that I can choose from ! I don’t think it would be a rap song, maybe a pop song. We went a couple of weeks ago with some teammates and I sang a lot of songs. I did some Bruno Mars, Adele, Beyonce, Drake… I did everything ! If I had to choose one… oh man, that’s tough ! You know what ? I think that if you pick any songs from one of these artists, I would do a great job. I like Bruno Mars, I would sing Marry You or Just The Way You Are. Oh no wait! I know which one. It’s a Kendrick Lamar song called Mirror.
12. If you could have a chat with any football player, dead or alive, who would you sit down with and what question would you ask him ?
Only one? Can I have a table if I make dinner for them? No seriously, it has to be Cristiano Ronaldo. I would want to ask him how it feels to achieve all the things he achieved. Imagine winning a Ballon d’Or or if you need to step up and take the last penalty in a Champions League final… how does it feel, you know?
13. You are offered $500,000 and you have 24 hours to spend the money and you can’t invest it – how do you spend it?
The first thing I would do, it’s not that expensive but it’s linked to my religion, I would send my father and mother to Mecca to do the pilgrimage. It’s highly encouraged to do it if you can afford it. I think it’s like $10,000 or $11,000, so that’s the first thing I would do! After that, I would go straight to a Louis Vuitton store and buy everything that I like, everything ! I’d buy shoes, pants, the backpack, the big bag. I don’t even need the big bag but I would buy it anyway. The suitcase I would buy it as well, everything from Louis Vuitton. I don’t really wear watches but I would buy two, and I’ll keep it simple with Rolex. I would also like to buy something for my friends and family. And oh, maybe I’ll buy a car as well. I don’t know how much money I have left but I would go for a G-Wagon. It can be a family car but it’s also a fast, strong car. Either that or an Audi RS 6.
14. According to you, what first impression do people have when they meet you?
Oh ! This is a difficult question.
I can tell you the first impression I had of you. The first time I saw you, it was at Tim Hortons Field before a game against Forge. I knew who you were because of the league, but we never met before and you looked like a really shy guy.
Yeah? Well when I’m new to places, I wouldn’t say I’m closed off, but I stay back. I’m not someone who goes and immediately interacts with people. I do socialize but if I’m somewhere new, I can come off shy. Once I understand who people are and the situation, I open up more, you know.
15. What’s the best advice a family member has given you ?
My father always says ‘work hard, do everything you can do and put all your faith in your God; he’s going to reward you.’ After that, whatever happens, happens. You control only the things you can control.
16. You’re stuck on a desert island with someone and that person has to be a player that played for Pacific FC. Who do you want to be stuck with and why ?
I would say Kekuta Manneh. I think he has experience with that.
To be stuck on a desert island?!
He’s the oldest guy in our team so he probably has the most knowledge about surviving. I know I would laugh a lot with him, he’s a funny guy so I would survive AND have a good time!
17. You’re given the opportunity to either go back to a moment in time or to see a moment in the future, what are you choosing and why?
I want to go back to the time when they made the pyramids. I want to see how they built them because I’m interested in history. What happened in the past, there are things we don’t have an explanation for, so imagine if you could see it with your own eyes. What would I see in the future ? Flying cars? I’m not really interested in that. I’ll leave the future to whatever happens, but yeah, I’ll go back in time!
18. Who is Ayman Sellouf going to be once he’s done being a professional footballer ?
I want to stay in the football world, no doubt about it. I think I’d like to be a coach, I have knowledge of the game, I understand people and I think that, as a coach, it’s something you need to have because not every player is the same. Every day is only football for me, it’s the only thing I think about so if I can be a coach, after a long career of course, I would love that. A head coach, not an assistant coach.
19. Who inspires you ?
For sure my father. For how he raised me with religion and everything he does. For the way he acts, the way he talks about working hard and how he helps me with my football. We talk about games and football often, not only about mine but about everything. We used to watch at least one game a day together when I was back home. My father inspires me. I’m also inspired by other players, videos I watch on YouTube like when I was young. They inspire me everyday to be fearless and be the best version of myself.
20. What’s your definition of happiness ?
My definition of happiness… I would say having faith in religion and God. Especially for me, as a Muslim, if you want to be happy you have to believe in God. Obviously to stay healthy, see the people close to you be happy and healthy. This is something that makes me happy, to see others be good and be happy in their life. My family, my friends; when they’re happy I’m happy as well.