Gedion Zelalem

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Gedion Zelalem
Gedion Zelalem Arsenal U21s Vs Fulham.jpg
Zelalem playing for Arsenal U21 in 2015
Personal information
Full name Gedion Zelalem[1]
Date of birth (1997-01-26) January 26, 1997 (age 20)
Place of birth Berlin, Germany[2]
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)[3]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Number 70
Youth career
2002–2003 BFC Germania 1888
2003–2006 Hertha BSC
2006–2008 MSC United
2009–2011 Bethesda SC
2011–2013 Olney Rangers
2013–2014 Arsenal
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2014– Arsenal 0 (0)
2015–2016 Rangers (loan) 21 (0)
2017 VVV-Venlo (loan) 9 (1)
National team
2012 Germany U15 2 (0)
2012–2013 Germany U16 8 (0)
2013 Germany U17 1 (0)
2015–2017 United States U20 6 (0)
2015– United States U23 3 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of May 5, 2017.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of November 12, 2015

Gedion Zelalem (born January 26, 1997) is a German-born American professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Arsenal.

After playing for various youth teams in Germany and the United States, Zelalem initially played with Arsenal's youth squads after joining the team in early 2013, and made his senior squad debut for Arsenal in an FA Cup match in January 2014.[4]

Internationally, Zelalem made appearances for Germany's under-15 team, under-16 team and under-17 team during 2012 and 2013. He became a U.S. citizen on December 29, 2014, and FIFA subsequently approved his eligibility to play for the United States on May 13, 2015.[5][6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Zelalem was born in Berlin, Germany, to Ethiopian parents.[9][10] He started playing football at the age of five for German club BFC Germania 1888.[citation needed] After this, he changed to Bundesliga side Hertha BSC's academy.[9]

Zelalem emigrated to the United States with his father in 2006, following his mother's death in the previous year, and settled in Washington, D.C..[9] He played with several teams: first with MSC United and Bethesda Soccer Club, before joining the elite club team Olney Rangers and the varsity team at Walter Johnson High School in Montgomery County, Maryland.[11]

Club career[edit]


Arsenal scout Daniel Karbassiyoon discovered Zelalem in the United States playing for Olney Rangers during a Dallas Cup match. After contacting his coaches, Zelalem was flown to London for summer training with the Arsenal youth academy; following the end of this camp, he was offered a permanent place in the Academy.[11] Zelalem started out playing in Arsenal's under-16s squad, before graduating into the under-21s in April 2013.[12] His debut for the under-21 side came against Liverpool U21 that month, but was unable to prevent Arsenal slipping to a 3–2 defeat at Anfield; however, he drew praise for his performance.[13] He made his second appearance for the side less than a week later in a 3–2 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers U21, once again drawing praise for his performance.[14]

In July 2013, Zelalem was included in Arsenal's 24-man squad for their Asia tour.[15] Although regarded as a surprise inclusion, strong performances against an Indonesia Dream Team, the Vietnam national team and Japanese side Nagoya Grampus led to him being touted as a future star, and being compared favorably to Cesc Fàbregas.[16][17][18]

Following these strong performances, Zelalem stated that he hoped to make a few appearances during the 2013–14 season.[19] He remained in the team for the Emirates Cup match against Galatasaray on August 4, but was unable to keep Arsenal from sliding to a 2–1 defeat.[20] Zelalem was selected on the bench in Arsenal's second Premier League game of the season, a 3–1 victory over Fulham on August 24, but did not make an appearance.[21] However, on September 10, Zelalem announced on Twitter that he had sustained an injury that would keep him out of action for up to two months.[22] Although he announced his return to training in late October, Arsène Wenger confirmed that he would not be fit enough for the League Cup match against Chelsea on October 29, dismissing a previous rumor.[23] He returned to action for Arsenal's youth side a week later in a UEFA Youth League fixture against Borussia Dortmund on November 6, playing the entire match in a 2–2 draw.[24]

On January 24, 2014, Zelalem made his debut with Arsenal's senior squad, coming on as a substitute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 71st minute of their 4–0 home FA Cup victory against Coventry City.[4] And later that year, on March 18, 2014, Zelalem signed a contract extension with Arsenal to last until 2017.[25] Zelalem soon made his second appearance for Arsenal, coming on as a substitute in the beginning of the second half, in a 4–1 away win against Galatasaray in UEFA Champions League on December 9, 2014.[26][27]

Rangers (loan)[edit]

On August 24, 2015, Zelalem was loaned to Rangers until January.[28][29] He made his debut in a 5–0 win over Airdrieonians in the Scottish League Cup, setting up goals for Martyn Waghorn and James Tavernier. He made his league debut in Rangers' Scottish Championship game against Queen of the South which Rangers won 5–1. In January 2016 his loan was extended through to the end of the season.[30]

On April 17, 2016 Rangers played old firm rivals Celtic in the Scottish Cup semifinal. Zelalem converted a penalty in the shootout to help his club progress to the final.[31] With Rangers in the final he went on to win the 2017 Scottish Challenge Cup in a 4-0 victory over Peterhead.[32]

VVV-Venlo (loan)[edit]

On January 24, 2017, Zelalem signed a contract extension with Arsenal and accepted a loan move to Dutch second-tier side VVV-Venlo, lasting until the end of the season.[33] With Venlo he went on to win the 2017 Eerste Divisie title.[34]

International eligibility and career[edit]

United States[edit]

Zelalem began training with the United States under-15 side in 2012, but was unable to play in matches at that time due to being classified as a permanent resident, but not yet a U.S. citizen.[35] In May 2014, it was reported that Zelalem's father, Zelalem Wolydes, held U.S. permanent residency and intended to apply for U.S. citizenship. If Wolydes gained U.S. citizenship before his son turned 18, then under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, Gedion would also acquire U.S. citizenship and become eligible to represent the United States internationally. He would also be able to retain his German passport which allows him to live and work in the European Union without restrictions.[36]

The Washington Post reported that Zelalem became a U.S. citizen on December 29, 2014, and that Zelalem had applied for an expedited U.S. passport.[37] After Zelalem received his citizenship, Sunil Gulati, head of U.S. Soccer, revealed that the board for U.S. Soccer had started the process to allow Zelalem to become eligible to play for the U.S. national team.[6][7] Due to a FIFA rule designed to prevent players from naturalizing to and representing nations to which they lack ties, Zelalem was subject to waiting a minimum of five years before he could start to represent the United States. Gulati stated U.S. Soccer filed for an exception, since Zelalem attended middle school in the United States.[38] He was approved to play for the United States and was added to the United States squad for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup on May 13, 2015.[39] He made his debut against Australia in a U-20 friendly match on May 19, 2015, which the USA won 2–1.[40]


Before becoming an American citizen, Zelalem had previously played for Germany's youth teams. He played for Germany's under-15 and under-16 sides, making two appearances for the under-15s and eight appearances for the under-16s.[41] In November 2013, Zelalem represented Germany at under-17 level in a friendly versus Spain.[42] But in March 2014, he withdrew from the Germany under-17 national team for the Group 5 2014 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship elite round fixtures,[43] and again turned down the Germany under-18 national team for friendly matches versus France in March 2015, citing his desire to represent the United States instead.[44]


Prior to making his one-time switch to the United States, Zelalem was eligible to represent Ethiopia internationally, due to his parents' nationality. In October 2013, Ethiopia's coach Sewnet Bishaw and Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom stated that they hoped Zelalem would opt to play for Ethiopia, but Zelalem turned down the opportunity.[10]

Career statistics[edit]


As of match played September 20, 2016
Club Season League[nb 1] Cup[nb 2] League Cup[nb 3] Europe[nb 4] Other[nb 5] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Arsenal 2013–14[45] Premier League 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
2014–15[46] 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
2015–16[47] 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016–17[48] 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Total 0 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 4 0
Rangers (loan) 2015–16[47] Scottish Championship 21 0 4 0 2 0 1 0 28 0
Career Total 21 0 5 0 4 0 1 0 1 0 32 0





  1. ^ Includes Premier League and Scottish Championship matches.
  2. ^ Includes FA Cup and Scottish Cup matches.
  3. ^ Includes Football League Cup and Scottish League Cup matches.
  4. ^ Includes UEFA Champions League matches.
  5. ^ Includes FA Community Shield and Scottish Challenge Cup matches.


  1. ^ "Updated Barclays Premier League Squad Lists 2014/15 published". Premier League. February 4, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Gedion Zelalem". Arsenal FC. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal midfielder player profile". Premier League. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b MacAree, Graham (January 24, 2014). "Arsenal vs. Coventry City: Final score 4–0, Podolski brace sees Gunners through". SBNation. Retrieved January 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Gedion Zelalem cleared by FIFA to play for United States". ESPN FC. ESPN Internet Ventures. May 14, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Arsenal starlet Gedion Zelalem receives US citizenship, plans on committing to American cause", MLS Soccer, December 30, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Arsenal's Gedion Zelalem completes U.S. citizenship process", ESPN FC, December 30, 2014.
  8. ^ "Gedion Zelalem cleared by FIFA to play for United States". ESPN FC. May 13, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c Goff, Steven (August 21, 2011). "Arsenal takes look at Gedion Zelalem, a 14-year-old Ethiopian-German living in Washington". Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Gedion Zelalem: Ethiopia keen on Arsenal teenager". BBC Sport. October 15, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Parisa Davoodi "Walter Johnson freshman to join Arsenal’s amateur program" The Black & White, Bethesda, Maryland, November 10, 2011. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  12. ^ "8. Gedion Zelalem". Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  13. ^ Bird, Jeorge (April 11, 2013). "Zelalem: Why Arsenal's German Youngster Will Be The Next Fabregas". Sabotage Times. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ Coombs, Dan (April 15, 2013). "Zelalem plays another 90 minutes as Arsenal's u-21s win". Here is the City Sport. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Arsenal name 24-man squad for Asia Tour". Arsenal F.C. July 11, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  16. ^ "No Longer a Secret: Gedion Zelalem Shines for Arsenal". World Soccer Talk. July 19, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  17. ^ Magnan, Andrew (July 22, 2013). "Starlet Gedion Zelalem excelling on Arsenal tour". ESPN FC Blog. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  18. ^ Cordova, William (July 25, 2013). "Gedion Zelalem is Arsenal's latest teenage prodigy". GiveMeSport. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ Back, Adrian (August 6, 2013). "Arsenal's Latest Midfield Prodigy Gedion Zelalem on His Ambitions for Next Season". International Business Times UK – Sports & Stars. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  20. ^ Clarke, Richard (August 4, 2013). "Arsenal 1–2 Galatasaray – Match report". Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  21. ^ Phillips, Owen (August 24, 2013). "Fulham 1–3 Arsenal". BBC Sport. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Zelalem ruled out for eight weeks". Arseblog News. September 10, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  23. ^ Haine, Will (October 28, 2013). "Arsenal: Zelalem struggling with injury". GiveMeSport. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  24. ^ Coombs, Dan (November 8, 2013). "Arsenal wonderkid Gedion Zelalem makes injury comeback as a number 10". Here is the City Sport. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Cazorla, Ramsey, Zelalem sign contracts". Arsenal FC. March 18, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Podolski, Ramsey inspire Arsenal at Galatasaray". UEFA. December 9, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  27. ^ Goff, Steven (December 9, 2014). "Gedion Zelalem plays for Arsenal in Champions League match". Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  28. ^ Hytner, David (August 18, 2015). "Arsenal's Gedion Zelalem to join Rangers on loan until January". The Guardian. Retrieved May 23, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Gedion Zelalem joins Rangers on loan". Arsenal FC. August 24, 2015. Retrieved August 24, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Rangers extend Gedion Zelalem loan from Arsenal until summer". BBC Sport. January 6, 2016. Retrieved May 23, 2016. 
  31. ^ Usry, Rob (April 17, 2016). "Gedion Zelalem scores in penalty shootout as Rangers beat Celtic in Scottish Cup". Stars and Stripes FC. Retrieved May 21, 2016. 
  32. ^ a b English, Tom (April 10, 2016). "Rangers 4-0 Peterhead". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Gedion Zelalem joins Dutch side VVV Venlo on loan". Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  34. ^ a b "Exclusive: Arsenal's Gedion Zelalem facing nine months out". W3 Live 
  35. ^ Snyder, Matthew (August 13, 2012). "Arsenal: Meet Gedion Zelalem, the Newest Star to Join the Club's Academy". Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  36. ^ Goff, Steven (May 2, 2014). "Arsenal's Zelalem nearing U.S. eligibility". Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Everything you need to know about U.S. prospect Gedion Zelalem", Washington Post, December 29, 2014.
  38. ^ "Gedion Zelalem currently ineligible but United States can get FIFA exception". ESPNFC. 
  39. ^ "U-20 MNT Roster". 
  40. ^ "Gedion Zelalem makes U.S. debut in under-20 friendly". ESPNFC. May 19, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2015. 
  41. ^ "National team player Gedion Zelalem". Deutscher Fussball-Bund. 
  42. ^ "DFB – Deutscher Fußball-Bund e.V. – Statistik". Retrieved March 25, 2014. 
  43. ^ "Arsenal wonderkid turns down Germany call up". March 25, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014. 
  44. ^ "Brian Sciaretta on Twitter". 
  45. ^ "Games played by Gedion Zelalem in 2013/2014". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved January 25, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Games played by Gedion Zelalem in 2014/2015". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  47. ^ a b "Games played by Gedion Zalalem in 2015/2016". Soccerbase. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  48. ^ "Games played by Gedion Zalalem in 2016/2017". Soccerbase. Retrieved September 3, 2016. 
  49. ^ Burke, Andy (April 5, 2016). "Rangers 1-0 Dumbarton". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved April 5, 2016. 

External links[edit]