Interviews

Bolo Zenden remembers the time he accidentally dislocated Xavi’s shoulder in a judo bout at Barcelona

The Dutch winger tells FourFourTwo about the influence of judo on his career - and how it injured one of Barcelona’s all-time great midfielders! 

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Bolo Zenden may be known for his goal-scoring prowess on the the left-wing, but not many know that he is an adept judoka. 

Yet his judo antics went one step too far during his playing days whilst challenging ex-Barcelona teammate Xavi to some moves when the pair were playing together in Spain. 

“It went a bit wrong once at Barcelona,” Zenden revealed in the April issue of FourFourTwo, out now

“I had a little [judo] challenge with Xavi, who was leaning with one hand on a bed. The bed had wheels, though, which made him slip and he dislocated a shoulder. He was out for a few weeks!”

The former Chelsea and Barcelona man grew up with a judo-loving family, which stemmed from his father who was a professional in the sport. In fact, Zenden’s father is still involved in the sport today despite his old age. 

He added: “My father was talented in the sport – a knee injury forced him to retire early, but he teamed up with the Dutch world and Olympic champion Anton Geesink to promote a judo programme around the world. 

“He was a judo commentator for Dutch TV too, and opened a sports school at home.

“As a kid, I only had to walk downstairs to enter the school, and I would automatically join the judo classes taught there. It was set up as a family business and remains today. 

“My dad is 80 now but he’s still involved.”

Despite causing some harm to one of his former midfield partners, Zenden is forever grateful for the impact that judo has had on his football career. 

“Overall, though, judo has given me a lot. It improved me as a footballer – it’s one-on-one, just like you can be on a pitch. 

“You learn to keep your balance, use powers wisely and break your fall. I never sustained any injuries by falling awkwardly on a pitch.”

Read the full interview with Bolo Zenden in the April 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and available digitally from Thursday March 5. Our new magazine reveals the stars of the decade – the 50 wonderkids who'll rule the next 10 years, with an exclusive interview with Erling Haaland, Vinicius Jr, Gabriel Martinelli, Ruben Neves, and Reece and Lauren James – as well as profiles of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kylian Mbappe. We also chat to Steve Clarke and Mick McCarthy and Scotland and Ireland in the Euro 2020 playoffs, revisit the last time Liverpool won the league, and chat to Nobby Solano, Yakubu and Wes Brown about their careers