Cape Town - Per Mertesacker believes his grounded upbringing was vital in forging a career at the top level.
The German defender came through the ranks at Hannover 96 and made his debut for the Bundesliga side as a 19-year-old.
Mertesacker studied alongside playing football and says a subconscious belief in his ability helped when a first-team opportunity presented itself.
“I was not the big talent, so I kept football as a hobby,” he told Arsenal Player. “The motivation was always to be fit and involved in a team, and not more - not to be a professional one day, not to be that keen on doing well every day.
“It was more fun for me, and that was good for me. It kept me grounded and very quiet.
“I took it as a hobby but I kept the belief inside me subconsciously and that was the key. No one went crazy when there was a defeat, no one went crazy when they said maybe I wasn’t good enough and went to the second team.
“That was very good for me. I stayed quiet and waited for the right moment, when I was 17 or 18.
“It’s all about opportunities and a bit of luck. It went so well for me.
“I needed a few injuries to some senior players to get to my first pre-season in the first team, and then some game time that was broadcasted on television. I did well then.
“You have to take that opportunity. It’s not only to get that, it’s to take it as well and perform solidly.
“That’s the key at that stage. I told myself it was now or never and I decided to take [the chance]. I could never predict that so many highlights would follow.”