Gedion Zelalem, the Bethesda teenager recruited by English Premier League club Arsenal, has moved to London and will not play for Walter Johnson High School this fall, Wildcats Coach Mike Williams said.
Zelalem, who last year was a freshman midfielder on the Maryland Class 4A state runner-up squad, is scheduled to formally join Arsenal’s youth system when he turns 16 in January.
To meet FIFA requirements for underage players, Zelalem’s family has relocated to England with him and his father has found a job.
Zelalem is a German citizen of Ethiopian descent and moved to the United States with his family in 2006. He has trained with both the U.S. under-15 national team and German youth program.
The USSF invited him to a recent under-17 camp, but Arsenal prefers he focus on the club for the time being.
Zelalem is not a U.S. citizen, which means he can’t represent the country in official matches. However, he is apparently eligible for citizenship through family ties and is pursuing a U.S. passport. Specific details weren’t available.
It’s unclear, though, whether he would prefer playing for the United States or Germany, or whether Germany rates him highly.
“He is obviously talented and we would love to have him,” USA under-17 coach Richie Williams said.
Mike Williams, the WJ coach, believes “we will see Gedion in Arsenal’s first team three years from now. He’s got a great future. I was happy to have him for one year.”
Additional information about Zelalem’s background can be found in my profile of him published last September.