The Euro 2012 Championships get started tonight with joint host country Poland playing Greece in Group A.
Ben Arfa - in action for France against Iceland recently
Russia will play the Czech Republic in the other Group A game, and England’s first game is on Monday night against France, and that will be a tough first game in Group D, with the other teams Sweden and joint host country Ukraine also squaring off on Monday night.
Two players from Newcastle who should feature in that game on Monday night are Yohan Cabaye, who should start, and Ben Arfa who will probably come on in the second half as a substitute.
The big story about Hatem is that he used to be the bad boy of French football, with the emphasis on used to be, when he gave his managers and other players at his two previous french clubs, Lyon and Marseilles a tough time of it.
But since he arrived on Tyneside almost two years ago, he has calmed down and matured a lot, and it could be that being out of the game 10 months with a double fracture of his left leg, actually helped him along the road to maturity.
It’s strange how terrible events in your life often turn out for the good, but only after they have passed by.
Alan Pardew and the Newcastle coaches, and the fans too, have to take a large share of the credit for getting the mercurial Frenchman back on track, and he could well be a key player for the French team on Monday night.
Ben Arfa scored 6 goals for Newcastle last season, including two goals at St. James’ Park against Blackburn and Bolton, the likes of which have never been seen during the 120 years or so of St. James’ Park.
And the goal against Blackburn Rovers is considered the best individual goal ever seen at the famous Newcastle stadium.
Alan Pardew is delighted that Ben Arfa has made it back to International football:
“It’s brilliant and I’m absolutely delighted for Hatem,” “He is a very special talent, there is no doubt about it. He can do things on a pitch other players simply cannot do.”
“His talent is there for all to see. Hatem is capable of beating two or three men then scoring or providing the killer pass for a goal. Those types of players are very special.”
And Ben Arfa has come storming back to the International scene via some excellent performances for Newcastle this year, and in the first part of the season he couldn’t get a starting position in the team.
One of the things manager Pardew demanded was extra work from the Frenchman, and insisted that he tracked back to help out the side.
Ben Arfa started to do that this year, and the last five months of the season saw the 11 times capped winger in some vintage mercurial form.
Ben Arfa admits he has matured on Tyneside:
“I feel I’ve developed. On the pitch I am enjoying myself and in life I am really enjoying my family and friends. I live every moment to the full,” “I have grown up in my head so it has affected all aspects of my life.”
“I have evolved a lot.” “You realise the situation you were in previously was not working, you get smacked, so you start asking questions then start to realise it is not always the fault of others.”
“Sometimes I have said I can’t be bothered, but now I very quickly retract it as I realise I have got some responsibility.” “I have become less impatient, less impulsive, less driven by my own desires.”
It’s always nice to see a young man get both his life and career back on track, and Ben Arfa has certainly done that at Newcastle.
Ben Arfa has played 34 times for Newcastle with 7 goals and 7 assists, and we expect the lad to get even better in the seasons ahead, and he’s been a great buy at around £2M.
However, if he scores one of those goals against England, when he beats five or six players on a mazy run from the half way line, some of us England and Newcastle supporters will not know whether to laugh or cry.
Here’s Ben Arfa brilliant goal against Blackburn.
And another one just as good it seems against Bolton Wanderers.
You see what I mean.