George Bello moved to Arminia Bielefeld in January 2022 from Atlanta United in the MLS. The 20-year-old full-back is showing great potential and hopes to develop even more in Germany. George has already achieved a lot in his young career including winning the Gold Cup and qualifying for this year’s World Cup with the United States. Get German Football News spoke with George to discuss his time in the States, how he’s settling in Germany and much more.
GGFN: Firstly, congratulations on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. You were part of the squad that qualified. Can you describe your emotions?
Yeah, it was amazing. When you’re a little kid, you dream of playing in a World Cup and qualifying just took that dream one step closer. So being able to do that with some guys that I’ve gone through the ranks of national team with as well, it was really a blessing. I’m really excited to see what the future holds. And obviously, the whole country is ready for it. We’re ready to take on the challenge.
At what age did you start playing football? Was it something that you always dreamed of?
I started playing when I was around five years old. Ever since I took the first touch of the ball, I felt like this is what I wanted to do. I come from a soccer family, my dad and my older brother were always watching football. So it’s something that was already natural in the family and growing up in America, there’s other sports. So when I would go to school people would say, you play football, you play soccer, why don’t you play basketball or American football? But it was just something that I really fell in love with and felt I could do at any time to just feel free and happy. So yeah, ever since I was little at that age, I knew this is something that I really enjoy, and something that I want to take as far as I can.
You mentioned your family there, who would you say was your biggest inspiration growing up? Was it a particular player or a person in your life?
For sure. My dad, he’s really the one that put me into the soccer, he’s always watching it. So it was always there. And then a player I would say I always looked up to Messi. I had a poster of him in my bedroom. When I started to play left back, I would say David Alaba was a big inspiration to me. Just the way he carries himself on and off the field. I really just looked up to him. So that was the two I would say.
And what would you say was your best moment of your career so far?
I can give you my top three. I would say one of them was scoring my first goal for Atlanta in front of my friends or family. It was a home game and scoring that was really special to me. My second would be winning the Gold Cup final in the US and starting in the game against Mexico. And then another one would be signing for Bielefeld. It was another dream of mine and a big step of my career. It’s been a dream. And I’ve always wanted to play in Europe. So moving here was also a big step and a big part of my life and career.
So you mentioned Bielefeld there who you joined in January. How are you adjusting to life in Germany?
Yeah, it’s been good. I’ve said before, everyone was very welcoming here. Which made my life even easier to settle down because when I first was coming here, I was kind of like, wow, this is my first time leaving America going to a different country to live by myself. And I was kind of like, how’s this gonna go? But when I got here, everything was just so smooth. My teammates, the coaching staff, the other staff just helped me fit right in and it was a smooth transition. And now I feel like this is home and as everyone knows, we’re just trying to fight it out. To be able to stay in the Bundesliga.
You mentioned your teammates, have any of your international teammates helped in regard to you settling in at Bielefeld?
For sure. Like I said, everyone. I’m really cool with everyone on the team. But yeah, my locker neighbours are Nathan de Medina and Gonzalo Castro. So I sit in between them and when I first got here, they were really really nice to me. They said if I need anything, just ask them. And I’m just cool with everyone I literally could name the whole squad, everyone’s just down to earth, humble, and I feel like we have a really special team and we’ll be able to pull it off by the end of the season.
So how would you judge your first four months in Germany, on a personal level?
I would say it’s been a learning coaster for sure. Obviously, each day you go out and you have to train your hardest. And every day is not going to be your best day, but you just have to have a strong mentality and know that you deserve to be there and to keep working and take chances when I’ve gotten to play. I felt like I’ve tried my best and given everything I’ve had. I’m very strict on myself. So I always know that there’s room for improvement. So I’ll say the first four months, it’s just been just a learning roller coaster. I’m still young and I still know that I have a lot to work on. So that’s the whole point of coming here. Just to keep on developing and becoming a better player on and off the field.
You made your first start in the Bundesliga against Borussia Dortmund. What was that like?
It’s crazy. I mean, some of the guys on that team I’ve played with them on FIFA. So like, it’s just a surreal feeling. But I feel like that in that game we fought as a team, I felt like we had we had our chances. And we did everything we could, it was just unlucky that we didn’t get the result. But starting in that game was really something special. I was blessed to be able to do that and hopefully just begin to get more starts.
Before that you were at Atlanta and were a regular there, how would you say that’s helped with your development?
I would say a lot. It gave me good professional games to be in. And as you get more games, you get more experience. So when you get that experience, you know what to do and the next time you’re in that position on the pitch. So getting games like that in Atlanta really helped me to take the steps to this next stage. It gave me confidence knowing that I played a professional game before, it gave me a boost. And now I’m just I’m here to keep getting better and keep improving as a player.
And you mentioned development, the Bundesliga is a league that is renowned for young players going there to develop. Was this possibly one of the reasons why you chose Bielefeld? And perhaps why we’re also seeing a lot of young American talents coming over from the states and joining Bundesliga teams?
Yeah, for sure. The Bundesliga is a place where you can come like you said, develop. It’s a place where a lot of young Americans are coming. So I would agree and say yes, it’s the reason I chose this place, because I wanted to go to a team where I knew I could get better as a player. It didn’t really matter to me that if I wasn’t at a top three league or something like that. It was just that I was just trying to go to a place where I know I can get better and continue to get to the stage that I want to get to. So yeah, the Bundesliga is a perfect place for young players to come and keep improving themselves.
Having played in both the MLS and Bundesliga, what would you say is the biggest difference between the two leagues?
A: I would say the biggest difference that I’ve noticed is the speed of play. It is very, very fast paced. Basically, throughout the whole game, you don’t really get any time, the time to lose focus, you have to be focused 100% of the time because the game moves so so fast, in my opinion. So I’ll say that’s the biggest difference, but that’s something that you can definitely get accustomed to, and get used to, and be able to improve yourself.
We’re finally starting to see full capacity stadiums back in Germany, how important that is that to Bielefeld and your fight for survival?
It is so important. The rest of the home games we have, they’re gonna be super, super important. And to have those fans it’s like having a twelfth man on the on the pitch, to give you that boost. When you’re feeling tired, you just know that the fans have your back and they give you the extra energy. So having that full capacity and having the fans back is one of the most important things and a big aspect in our run to stay in the league.
What do you hope to achieve for the remainder of 2022?
As we go on, just keep improving myself as a player, competing for a spot on the World Cup roster, of course. And solidifying my spot here, being able to be a consistent player with this team and helping this team as much as I can. So I think those are the top three things right now that I would say are my goals.
And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to people reading this, what would it be?
Well, my dad always told me just to stay humble and whatever you do, don’t ever become complacent, because there’s always someone that wants your spot. And always go and try to work hard for your spot, whatever it may be. It doesn’t have to be football. It doesn’t have to be anything like that. So never become complacent. Always stay humble and always know like, there’s someone that wants to your spot so just keep working hard and whatever you do, never think you’ve made it until you’ve made it. That’s what I would say, to stay humble.
It was a pleasure to talk with George and learn about his time in the MLS and Bundesliga. He and Bielefeld have a tough task ahead of them in order to stay in the league this season. But George is clearly a determined and humble professional who understands his role despite his young age. It’ll be great to see where his talents and career leads him. We at Get German Football News wish George all the best for the remainder of the season and beyond.