East End boy eager to face Ballack

  • @SamWallaceIndy

The last Englishman left in Euro 2008 is, of course, also Turkish although Colin Kazim-Richards could be forgiven for admitting that the better part of his football education has come from his adopted country. The 21-year-old from Leytonstone, who faces Germany in the semi-finals in Basle tomorrow, said that the technical ability of Turkish footballers is far ahead of their English counterparts.

His progress to the elite of European football, via Bury, Brighton & Hove Albion and Sheffield United, has been one of the tournament's most remarkable stories as Kazim-Richards will come up against Michael Ballack tomorrow. Kazim-Richards has already faced the German captain once before, when he scored the winner in Fenerbahce's Champions League defeat of Chelsea in April. Tomorrow there is a chance that Ballack may actually recognise the East End boy whose new nationality is conferred on him by a Turkish-Cypriot mother.

Kazim-Richards has been with Fenerbahce since last summer. "It's been an experience playing in Turkey although I won't pretend I don't miss England," he said. "I'll never slag England off and I don't take any pleasure from them not making the finals. But it's true that technique is so much better in Turkey. We do things in training like you can only play with your left foot and it really improves you as a player.

"All the players are comfortable on the ball helped by the arrival of so many Brazilians who are unbelievable. It's astonishing some of the things they can do with a ball but you don't want to be embarrassed so you have to learn to do what they can do. They even have a special show-boating game where there are no goals but they have to do a trick every time they get possession before they are allowed to pass. They all have their own personal trick."

With Nihat Kahveci, the team's captain who is deployed as a lone centre-forward, out of the tournament, there is a chance that Kazim-Richards could be asked to fulfil that role tomorrow. He has made no secret of his desire to move back to an English club, although given that he was never picked for England at any junior level, including the Under-21s, he could be forgiven for thinking he is under-appreciated in the country of his birth.

"Coming from the East End of London I know how hard life can be and you have to be very determined to make it," he said. "Yes, you do pinch yourself sometimes when you are hanging out with Roberto Carlos [at Fenerbahce] and going out to restaurants with him. But I always believed in my ability and that I'd make something of my career. I'm a confident person and know what I want."