Axel Witsel grew up as a young boy having football at his feet and finding himself loving only football as a hobby and gift.
Axel Laurent Angel Lambert Witsel was born on the 12th day of January 1989 to parents; mother, Sylvie Witsel and father, Thierry Witsel in the beautiful city of Liège, Belgium.
Axel was born into a mixed-race and loving family background. His jovial loving parents had their children at an early age.
His mother pictured below is Belgian and his father has roots in the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Both had their children at an early age.
Axel Witsel grew up with his one and only kid sister who goes by the name Whitney Witsel. Despite having a Belgian white mother, both kids were born inheriting their father’s gene thus making them be grouped as members of the Belgian Black Ethnicity.
Growing up, Withney to Axel, a greater feeling of being loved thanks to heir open lines of communication which both siblings inherited from their parents. Naturally, Axel grew up as a young boy having football at his feet and finding himself loving only football as a hobby and gift.
His parents allowed him to play on open pitches but never considered their son taking football seriously.
This was because of limited opportunities Belgian football provided at that time. As Axel puts it;
‘There were no toys or games when I was younger, just a football. I’m entirely grateful for everything my dad did. He always pushed me. Without him, I wouldn’t have this incredible journey that I’m on so far.’
Axel was 15 years when he decided to quit playing with friends at local pitches.
He got the opportunity to go professional with Standard Liège thanks to an opportunity he got from the Royal Belgian Football Association funding.
The buildup to his involvement with Standard Liège is explained below.
During the late-1990’s, Belgium witnessed a new wave of football enthusiasm leading to a revolution in the game.
The country with a population of only 11m had a watershed moment in 1998 after their national team disgracefully crashed out of the 1998 world cup group tournament.
Bob Browaeys, who was the coach of Belgium youth teams at every level was tasked to put on a Sablon’s blueprint document which would challenge the “lack of unified vision on youth” football at that point.
This document led to over 30 Belgian federation coaches meeting to discuss the radical change in the approach of football in the county.
One of their findings was that there was far too much emphasis on winning and not enough on development. This led to youth football revolution in Belgium. Football clubs got boosted financially which directly influenced their scouting network within the country. This was how Axel got the opportunity when scouts picked him up to play for his hometown club, Standard Liège.
Unlike many footballers who started their youth career early (between age 6 to 8), Axel became a youth club newcomer at a relatively old age (age 15.
There was a meteoric rise to his growth and his ambitions of joining the club’s senior team weren’t just a passing fancy. Back then, he was the best at guiding the ball and protecting defenders. When interviewed about this quality, he said;
I was always like that, guiding the ball ever since I was a kid — I love to hold the ball and shield it.
It’s one of my strong sides — knowing how to use my body was always my style.
Axel successfully outgrew all youth ranks and began his senior career at hometown club Standard Liège with his father becoming his agent.
Axel made 183 appearances and scoring 42 goals while winning five domestic trophies.
There were two notable moments as far as his rise to fame was concerned. First was when he was awarded the Belgian Golden Shoe in 2008.
The second was when he won the Young Footballer of the Year Award in the 2007/08 campaign.
Axel Witsel with his achievements became one of Belgium’s most successful and sort after players. Just like Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, Axel became a bonafide member of the Belgian golden age footballers.
The rest, as they say, is now history.
In 2017, Axel Witsel’s decision to turn down a move to Juventus in favour of a lucrative offer from the Chinese Super League got fans around the world upset.
Witsel with interviewed claimed he made the best choice for his family.
His reason for accepting China’s money worth €18 million-per-year was to build a rich Axel Witsel family background which would ensure decades of financial stability and happiness.
Axel wasn’t moved by Juventus offering him €4.5 million-per-year compared to his previous wages of €3 million-per-year at Zenit.
If he had accepted, he’d be joining a historically powerful European team playing in the Champions League knockout rounds, with a real shot at winning the tournament.
Instead, he chose to sign for China’s Tianjin Quanjian, founded in 2006, following the footsteps of Carlos Tevez, for an annual salary which was 4 times greater than what Juventus offered him.
When Witsel’s transfer to Tianjin was announced, social media exploded with fans calling him a mercenary, money grabber, and every other insult under the sun reserved for athletes who choose to put their financial well-being ahead of anything else.