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Zelalem debuts for Arsenal 2 days before 17th birthday


Happy early birthday, Gedion Zelalem.

Turning 17 on Sunday, the wonderkid debuted at the Emirates in Arsenal’s comprehensive 4-0 win over Coventry City in the FA Cup, and he looked every bit like an Arsenal player.

Arsene Wenger, who foresaw this day just over a year ago when he signed him to an academy deal, inserted the youngster in the 71st minute, taking over for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

He becomes the first player to see the pitch for Arsenal who was born after Wenger took charge. That’s a new level of youth.

The German-Ethiopian was confident in possession, and was heavily involved in the buildup of Santi Cazorla’s goal, Arsenal’s fourth. He got the opportunity to play alongside Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, and Jack Wilshere, and it probably won’t be the last time we see those names together on the scoresheet.

(MORE: Eligible for US and compared to Zidane, next chapter for Zelalem could begin tonight)

Tonight’s appearance is the start to a highly-touted career for the Arsenal academy product, and many countries are vying for his services.

Zelalem’s parents were born in Ethiopia, the kid himself was born in Berlin, and he lived near Bethesda, Maryland from ages 9-16. Jurgen Klinsmann has made an open push to get Zelalem to play for the United States, but there are plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Nevertheless, on the club level it’s easy to see why, with plenty of room to grow, the young attacking midfielder is exciting so many people in London’s famed academy and beyond.