At home with Vincent Kompany: ‘Setbacks, racism everything fed my fire’

The Manchester City captain talks frankly about the bad course he virtually made as a girl, lunatic politicians and life after football

It is 10 am working on an early spring day when I haul up at the electric doors of Vincent Kompany’s home. In the sprinkle, the Manchester sprawl has given way to the leafy streets of Cheshire, where long driveways announce the stately houses of the affluent. Kompany answers the door in a black T-shirt and jeans, having just finished a workout. It’s March, and Manchester City’s battle-hardened captain and central champion is only now returning to fitness after a six-week layoff for a calf injury.” I wasn’t feeling a great job, so an extra session in the gym is the way to get through it ,” he says, a towel draped around his neck, his gentle Belgian accent blending with Manc vowels.

At 6ft 4in, Kompany’s stature is reassuring rather than intimidating. He induces light-green juice in a whizzy little machine that the players are testing.” Sometimes I have a berry one as a treat ,” he says, straightening up. We make them into his home office, where we talk for the next two hours. A whiteboard tagged out with a football move stands against one wall. On the top sequence of his bookshelves, mementoes line up like toy soldiers; below them are accounts of Mandela, Gandhi, Obama; histories of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “the two countries ” that Kompany’s father, Pierre, left as a government refugee in 1975; profiles of Sir Alex Ferguson and Kompany’s teammate Sergio Aguero.

At 33, Kompany is one of the Premier League’s elder politicians, an erudite, multidimensional musician with as much to contribute off the pitching as on. This season is his 11 th with City, a milestone for any professional jock, and in the months adopting our interrogation he will contribute the fraternity to its ninth major trophy since he ratified, trouncing Brighton 4-1. But it will be his prodigious 30 -yard strike against Leicester City that poppings the stopper on the Premier League title observances, in the penultimate play of the season: a thunderbolt, delivered with artful timing, by the defender dubbed Captain Fantastic. It’s a few moments that registers Kompany’s strength of character, neglecting his administrator and teammates as they ask him not to attempt such an brash hit – his first purpose from outside the box since 2013.” Where is it you people want your bronze, Vincent Kompany ?” roared Gary Neville from the Sky commentary box.

Goal! Kompany 1, Leicester City 0. Photograph: Action Image via Reuters

If Kompany can top this season’s Premier League name and Carabao Cup by resulting City to an FA Cup win on the day this interview is published, well the pinnacle of an unprecedented domestic treble.

Kompany lives with one hoof inside and one paw outside the Premier League bubble. In 2017, he graduated with a global business master’s, which prompted some dressing-room banter.” Now and then I’d get a trainer thrown at me while I was studying ,” he says. He is also a family man- he and his Mancunian wife, Carla, have three children. Last time, social media moved wild for footage of him celebrating City’s title winon a cream skin sofa inhis United-supporting father-in-law’sliving room. Fan were struck by both their friendly struggle and the meagre aim; a leaving from the usual footballer stereotypes. That night, a video of Kompany delivering a victory speechin his neighbourhood bar could have been of any bloke earning his Sunday league:” If there’s children in the room, cover their ears … it’s been a fucking long excursion .”

At the same time, his planned- practise, proceed, fixtures, sponsorship commitments, beaker tournaments- is unforgiving and liquid. It has taken weeks to pin down our interview.

He is keen to exploit this influence while it lasts. By autumn, he will have generated an estimated PS1m to help tackle Manchester’ s homelessness crisis, having donated a series of fundraising happenings through his donation Tackle4MCR( four is his shirt number ). The biggest of these will be a testimonial match on 11 September. Kompany’s contract with City expires the summer months, and the sports pages swirl with reported cases of his recurring injuries and opinion about retirement. City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, has signalled that he still rates Kompany among the world’s best, but fitness will determine whether his last years are played out in Manchester.

Does retirement scare him?” I’m in a business where I’m flavour of the month and good-for-nothing more ,” he says.” I’ve had harms from a very young age. I’ve always been forced to think that my profession could be over tomorrow. I’ve had 15 times to prepare, so for it to be daunting at this quality wouldn’t make sense. I’m probably the most prepared musician in the nations of the world for my after-career .” Because, while he is at a crossroads, Kompany has been here before, half a lifetime ago.


Kompany was born in 1986 to a family that was poor but improved. His father, who was elected last year as Belgium’s first black mayor in Brussels’ Ganshoren district, had been imprisoned as a student in a DRC labour camp for to intervene in the uprising against the oppressor Mobutu. In Brussels, he completed an engineering grade and drove a taxi by night to support his young family( Vincent has two siblings ). His white Belgian mother, Jocelyne, who died from cancer in 2008, was a union leader who worked for Brussels’ government employment agency.

The Kompanys were acutely aware of the discrimination their mixed-race progenies would face, and taught them to challenge it. They spoke French at home and Dutch at institution; Brussels is a multilingual metropoli and lingos are a valuable money in the employment market. Vincent speaks German and English, very, and is semi-fluent in Italian and Spanish.” I owe everything to my parents ,” he says.” From the instant of being born, we expanded our ranges from our insignificant suite .”

Did his mothers knowledge racism?” My dad wasn’t accepted in the family at the start. My mother comes from the most rural village you can imagine and when she arrived, in the 70 s, with my dad, directly from Africa, it was a shock. It was ignorance. My dad always dissolved up being accepted because of his personality. It was normal for us to go to youth tournaments and be called apes; parents exclaiming it. That would roughly justification a fist fight with my mother. We were taught to be stronger .”

Kompany ever excelled at football; he affiliated Anderlecht, Belgium’s biggest club, aged six, and remained until he was 20.” Football was, first of all, a action for my parents to get me off the streets ,” he says.” It was the most competitive environment you’ve ever known. I desired every bit of it, but if you talk about dealing with stuff at a young age, you want to see elite football. You’re not a child .”

With his father, bride and children, regarding the 2014 Premier League award. Photograph: Getty Epitome

He was clever and streamed high in the academically weighted Belgian school system. But he felt underrepresented by its social organisation.” It was quite socially subdivided. Those parents from traditional Belgian backgrounds were very present, influencing how the class should be. My mothers had to work- there was absolutely no chance for them to participate .”

At 14, he was knocked out of school- the board cited omissions for wander with the national team- and shed out of the Belgium youth squad, too; he clashed with his instruct, who told him he would never represent again. Kompany didn’t like his lead; and he didn’t like Kompany’s attitude.

” I had an edge, a different way of dealing with happens ,” he says.” My mothers ever revolted against prejudice or unfairness, so you can imagine that when school teachers would penalise someone- or me- for something that wasn’t fair, I wouldn’t take it .”

In the infinite of a year, he underwent surgery on his knee, his parents divorced and the family faced eviction from their social housing block in the anxious inner-city domain of Uccle. Had the young Kompany wanted to go off the rails, the acces was wide open for him to do so.

” I’ve been sometimes particularly, very close to being on an extremely mistaken track ,” he says.” If I had wanted to sell pharmaceuticals, I could literally have gone downstairs and ambled into some dark and shady action. If I’d wanted to look good to impress daughters, I could have hooked up with one of the organizations. These were all people I knew. I was playing football with these guys .”

Instead, Kompany remained focused on the bigger picture.” Setbacks, racism- everything was like feeding a attack. The biggest danger to me is contentment or inaction, which I never allow into my life. These are the defining moments- that age where you can throw everything away by being the worst version of yourself .”

By the age of 17, in 2004, Kompany was walking out as Belgium’s youngest international ceiling. He was sold to Hamburg in 2006 in the most expensive transfer deal in Anderlecht’s history. The move to City, for PS8m, came two years later.

Celebrating Manchester City’s Premier League title acquire after overpowering Brighton& Hove Albion last weekend. Photograph: Getty Epitome

Kompany tells me that he didn’t recognise his own potential until he was 16.” I recalled, if I stir PS300 a month playing football and got a job at Tesco, I’m having fun and can buy myself a little house with a garden .” That was as good as it was going to get.” I never felt I was talented or anointed at anything. Most acts that appear to be talent are just the result of a process .”

“This is bullshit,” Kompany’s long-time agent, Jacques Lichtenstein, tells me later.” You assure a Vincent Kompany once every 50 times. He is so fast for his immensity. This is a gift from God- if you believe in God- or his mothers .” Fans contemplate him as a colossus, a tower of strength preceding from the team’s defence.

Lichtenstein tells a fib of a 16 -year-old Kompany turning away Italian agents who arrived at his flat with a bag full of coin, because, while he hadn’t exchanged contracts with Lichtenstein more, he had given the agent his name.” On the pitch there is one word to describe him: a officer. Off the degree, above all, he evidences love .”


It is February, the month before our interview, and a biting 2C outside. At the Manchester Hilton, Kompany and his wife Carla are hosting a black-tie fundraiser for Tackle4MCR, to differentiate his decade at City. The neighborhood has recorded a drop in the number of rough sleepers, but more than 300 parties are still spending the nighttime in awnings; in Manchester’s Piccadilly area, homeless people beg in every third doorway. It’s hard to square this austere actuality with football’s unimaginable resource. At the Hilton’s mezzanine forbid, the City squad have a sometime elapses and the champagne spurts. Kompany and the compere, Gary Lineker, sidle a selfie as Noel Gallagher performs an intimate gig for clients who have paid up to PS1, 000 a pop. Gallagher’s guitar travels for PS50, 000 at auction; a second sells after the event, taking the evening’s advances to more than PS2 50,000.

Kompany’s father is here, more. He has a quiet resilience about him, and his political victory four months ago, in an overwhelmingly grey constituency, is still something to celebrate. He shares his respect in his son- both his occupation and now his philanthropy job. In the maidens, Carla is rearranging her garment, a glamorous applique dress with barely there straps. Her girlfriends flattery her and “Vinny” on the evening’s success.

Lineker acquaints Kompany to the stage.” Vinny is not like other central guards I know. He can string a decision together, for starters ,” he quips.” He is one of a small number of musicians who is currently universally liked and respected. He transcends football conflict .” Kompany, dressed in a tux accented with a red-faced pocket square, gets a standing ovation, but there’s only one reason why he’s standing in a function room on a Monday evening, mid-season.” When we go home to our children, when we look other beings in the eyes, we can say we have done everything we can as a community ,” he says.

Back in his home office, I ask if guilt continues any part in his decision to give something back. He earns a reported PS120, 000 a few weeks.” Clearly not guilt ,” he says.” I do it because I had wished to and I’m able to. I earn a tremendous amount of money, thanks to football. My mother was a socialist, a borderline communist. It was her nature to fight for the rights of the deprived. My father was a political refugee. That is my past. I genuinely have to look at myself and say,’ Am I doing enough ?'”

Kompany has called shelters but abhors taking a media circus to the streets. Carla has started, instead, unpublicised.” I don’t want to be intrusive ,” he interprets.” It would be too easy for me to go and take some selfies with homeless person. I inform myself and I obviously make an effort when I’m around beings in need, but in reality I got to go to beings with deeper pockets than mine and there’s a rack life on that .” The carnival is attended by some of the city’s wealthiest business people, and he is aware that he won’t command their attention for ever.

‘ I’ve still went that attitude of” I can take on the world “.’ Photograph: Sebastian Nevols/ The Guardian

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor who has announced an ambition to end rough sleeping by 2020, tells me Kompany has a reach way beyond any politician’s.” That he opted this cause speaks strongly about the effect Manchester has had on him- how he understands the place, his feeling knowledge .” Kompany promotions early intervention- namely, investment in schools- to combat the problem.

What part has austerity frisked?” One of the social workers at the shelter was please explain how badly they were affected by the slasheds and what impact it had on the design they are allowed do. Austerity plays a part in it, but it’s a mix of everything .”

Tackle4MCR is not his first third-sector project. Kompany has worked with SOS Children’s Villages, creating a village for more than 100 orphans in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital. In Belgium, he founded BX Brussels, a football club with a listing of 1,300 juveniles and 200 voluntaries, and an emphasis on social mobility.

” I’ve never seen football as merely football ,” he says.” It’s one of the most important one movers of beings. It presents boys an organised context, beings to look up to, talk to. We’re trying to support them with communication abilities because, in Brussels, it was necessary to two, three or four usages to get a job. I’ve seen the toughest boys in the locality simply mingle and have a laugh with people who would typically be the target of their behavior. This would only be possible in the dressing room .”


Most Premier League participates retire by 35. At that senility, their earnings fall asleep a cliff and their lives change dramatically; slew gone bankrupt. Kompany has thought hard-boiled about his second achievement, even before his first is over. He is eloquent, so he is already being tapped up for punditry; he is a leader, so he can coach; and he is a big enough name to play abroad. But he is leaving nothing to chance.

He started on his business master’s in 2012 because he wanted to be able to read a business proposal, he says.” It was a necessity. If you have a lot of income and you’re someone who can’t sit still, it’s a recipe for disaster. I came hurt a few times when I remembered I was pretty intelligent and that touched my dignity .” He lost PS2m on two Belgian plays rails that opened in 2014 and disappeared bust a year later.” It wasn’t so much the loss of money, it was the fact that you feel like you’ve been tricked .”

His other interests include media and property development; he started working with my husband a few years ago, although this is the first time we have talked.” The world is that, for 10 years of your life, you live in an absolute bubble ,” he says.” The fund is all coming in as if there’s never going to be an end. But there is a very clear end in sight,[ was put forward by] your physiological limits .”

With custodian Joe Hart, honoring Manchester City’s 2011 FA Cup final acquire against Stoke City. Photograph: Action Image

He discovers business as a route of resolving social injustice, more.” When I talk about institutions of power, private and public, in these boardrooms it is still principally grey males making all these decisions. This needs to change. We have got absolutely no access to these sits at the moment. Take the boardrooms of football clubs. It’s important to start looking at what these institutions are made of and you’ll ensure, very soon, that it’s still one of the real hidden hotbeds of prejudice .”

He comes politics closely but, like most of us, is enraged by it.” I cannot look at anyone at the moment and say,’ I know what he certainly speculates ,'” he says.” It’s like theater .” He considers himself a foreigner” when it’s opportune” and wasn’t surprised to wake up to the Brexit result three years ago. He now horror for the long-term costs of the UK’s ” selfish ” act.” If the EU was to collapse as a result of this, we are going back into very dangerous territory, peculiarly when you look at how the government scenery is changing in Europe .”

He refers to Donald Trump as a “lunatic” and says Europe is at risk of the same politics.” If you split up Europe and get a whole load of lunatics in isolation, who get elected based on hardline rhetoric, who is going to be the first guy to press the button because he’s pushed himself into a area ?” I point out that parties will now be wondering if he’s eyeing a occupation in politics. No, he says.” The nature doesn’t belong to politicians .”


Later that afternoon, at City’s first-team complex, the team meet after an approximately unheard-of two-day break and buzz off each other like classmates returning from academy vacations. Daily training is accompanied by performance monitoring, physio, team fills and club-controlled meals.

As heavy vapours briefly clear to reveal a City-blue sky, Kompany perspirations through two hours of teaches. He is Vinny now, to everyone from the security staff to Guardiola. His attention to his recreation, his teammates and his instructs is unfaltering.

I think back to something I asked about earlier the working day, about who he was when he came to Manchester and who he is now.” Ten years ago I was just a young person who grabbed an opportunity playing in the Premier League ,” he said.” I still remember I’ve got such an attitude of’ I can take on the world’ but , nowadays, I respect projecting and experience .” The next decade will be about supporting his leader beyond life as a musician- to himself, if not the rest of us. It certainly won’t involve sitting still.” I need to be fed stuff invariably, otherwise I don’t know how to function. I can’t remember a sleepy Sunday ,” he says.

The floodlights come on. It is 5pm and Kompany offers- and apologises for- a sweaty hug as he leader inside, preparing for the final stretching of his 11 th season with the team that changed his fortunes as much as he has contributed to theirs. He is fortunate, energised, and ready for whatever comes next.

* For more information on Tackle4MCR, trip tackle4MCR.

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