Ryan Babel on the release of his autobiography… as a rap album | Soccer

Ryan Babel releases his autobiography on Friday. Nothing extraordinary about it, you will think; he’s 34 and is in the final stages of an eventful career, after all. But this autobiography is an eight track rap album written and performed by the former Liverpool striker. “The point was to try to do something different, something creative and something that had never been done before,” Babel explains. As with the best autobiographies, he doesn’t hold back.

“I was inspired to do it,” says Babel, who is in Amsterdam promoting The Autobiography – Chapter 1 and an accompanying short film during Galatasaray’s free time during the international break. “When I was back at Ajax just under two years ago, a reporter approached me and asked if I was ready to begin the process of writing an autobiography. My feeling was that it was a little too early. I was not ready. But then we got into the first lockdown and had to stay home and I got bored. And that’s where the idea came from. I thought, ‘Why don’t I take the concept of autobiography in musical format?’ So I called a few musician friends here in Holland to see how busy they were and explained the concept to them. They were very excited to help me and that’s how the journey began.

Ryan Babel has been immersed in music since he was a teenager, but he “felt intimidated” about staying out earlier in his career. Photography: Will Cornelius

Friends in the music industry weren’t hard to find. Babel has been immersed in music since his teens and wanted to pursue a dual career in rap and football while climbing the ranks of Ajax. This has been discouraged, he says, by “general public opinion, the football media. Back then, it was not as common as it is today for football players to do this. I was one of the only footballers here to do that and I felt intimidated by these opinions. I was 18, 19, so I thought I needed to take a step back and not get too involved in the avant-garde of music.

Instead, he started a music management company 12 years ago and appeared on songs by other Dutch hip-hop artists. Writing and producing eight songs about his own life, however, brought a different challenge.

The Netherlands international admits: “I was aware that, if I wanted to make it authentic, I had to share things that maybe it is not always comfortable to tell. But at the same time, I was mentally prepared to do it and the writing process was very inspiring for those involved. I’m really proud of what I was able to say in the final product and how I was able to say it. In the past when I did little things in the studio it was more to brag, you know how rappers do in general. It’s easy to lie and say, “Oh, I’m rich here and rich there,” but it wasn’t interesting to me and it sure wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be as authentic as possible and share my truth.

Babel has released three singles from the album so far – Young Champ, Reminder and Open Letter. The latter caused a sensation in the Netherlands for criticizing his former international teammate Ibrahim Afellay. Former coaches and racist abuses including Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were subjected after the Euro 2020 final are also discussed.

“Open Letter is a song that is split into two parts and has two different rhythms,” Babel explains. “The first part of the song is basically taking you back on a journey that I’ve been on since the very beginning. I describe times when I felt some coaches didn’t believe in me enough. I describe conversations with d ‘former football players like Winston Bogarde, who had a difficult conversation with me and told me that if I wanted to get there I had to step it up. I am involving the current Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal, who at the time was Ajax’s sporting director and didn’t believe in me enough to give me a contract but still did because coach Danny Blind believed in me. of those things that happened in 2003-2004 that I have never shared before.

“There is also a point where I describe my little relationship with Rafa Benítez in Liverpool, then you move on to the second part of the song which is more about the current era and where I give my opinion on journalism in Holland and a situation with a former colleague who became a journalist [Afellay]. People in Holland took him as a dissong but it was more an expression of my disappointment with this individual because we had been teammates for so long and now he has become an expert who in my opinion has tried to score points to make his position look good in the expert world.

“I also rap on a piece of racism describing what happened to these English players after the Euro final and I use a nice metaphor to translate it to Holland. I say I was not surprised what happened because we are facing the same issues here in Holland. For me, this was nothing new.

Babel’s description of a “small” relationship with Benítez is revealing. The forward was one of Europe’s most coveted young talents when Liverpool bought him for £ 11.5million in 2007. He was 20 and made more appearances for Liverpool than any other club in a career that also includes Hoffenheim, Kasimpasa, Al Ain, Deportivo La Coruna, Besiktas and Fulham. But the Anfield chapter is one with regrets.

“It was, in my opinion, a strange relationship [with Benítez] because when he signed me, I saw him as the great uncle who wanted to give me a chance and help me succeed. But as we went along he left me totally on my own and only judged me for the things I didn’t do well instead of telling me how to fix or improve the things I needed to improve. . I was very young and just needed some guidance. I don’t want to blame the coach for not having the ultimate career at Liverpool, but I felt it could have been closer in terms of guidance and support. You can compare it to when you try to teach someone something and it doesn’t stick, but then someone else says the same thing in a different way and all of a sudden it clicks. . The way the coach at that point tried to smack things, it didn’t work.

“I felt that he was not making enough effort to guide a young player, not like we see today with a Jürgen Klopp or many other coaches who take the time to make the most of a talent . At that time, I was one of the talents in Europe that people expected and unfortunately, in the eyes of many people, I did not realize this potential. Looking back, maybe if I had had the right support I could have been a lot better. It was a disappointing fate for me if you talk about my relationship with the coach. I felt he could have helped me more. Even players like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres who were still playing at that time also confirmed this type of relationship. [with Benítez]. “

Ryan Babel scored for his current club, Galatasaray, against Besiktas in May.
Ryan Babel scored for his current club, Galatasaray, against Besiktas in May. Photography: BSR Agency / Getty Images

He is looking at Liverpool from a different perspective now. “I’m so jealous! I think it’s amazing to be a young player now at Liverpool, especially working under the guidance of a manager like Jürgen Klopp who tries to get the best out of the players and also gives them chances to develop. It is a young player’s dream to feel that a coach really cares about him. It can make a real difference for a player.

Babel is in the last year of his contract with Galatasaray and, despite success in the music and real estate business, has no plans to retire from football yet. “I’m open-minded,” he says of the future. “Maybe MLS is something that would interest me. If I still had a team in Europe that I could play for, I would definitely think about it. I had a great time at Fulham and formed a good relationship there so if Fulham was a place that would make sense at that time I would definitely try to return to Fulham to help the club with my experience . There have been a lot of ups and downs but overall I’m proud of my journey.


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