Omari Hutchinson: Arsenal’s teenage internet sensation who wowed Pele

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The 17-year-old winger is one of the most highly-rated youngsters coming through at the Gunners after earning a reputation for his amazing skills

There are not many 12-year-olds who suddenly find themselves as the centre of attention in the world of football.

But that is exactly what happened to Arsenal youngster Omari Hutchinson when he became an internet sensation overnight thanks to his remarkable ability with the ball at his feet.

Hutchinson was the star of a video which went viral online alongside the F2 Freestylers, with football fans from around the globe stunned to see someone so young pulling off the tricks he had been teaching himself since the age of five.Article continues below

“It was a mad experience,” Hutchinson tells Goal in an exclusive interview. “Everyone at my school wanted my signature and my Instagram was blowing up!

“I didn’t really know how to react. I was excited, but I was 12 and it was coming at me fast.”

Now 17, Hutchinson looks back on that experience fondly.

The video remains online for everyone to see, but he has moved on, though the skills and tricks that brought him to the world’s attention five years ago are why he is one of the most exciting young talents coming through at Arsenal right now.

Hutchinson is part of an exciting new breed in north London. He is part of a crop of players who have just broken into the Under-23s set-up for which there is huge excitement, such is their quality and potential.

There is midfielder Charlie Patino, winger Kido Taylor-Hart and defender Zane Monlouis, to name just a few. All have come through from Arsenal’s Hale End academy and worked their way up through the age groups alongside each other.

New U23s head coach Kevin Betsy has now been brought in to nurture and develop them as they attempt to follow in the footsteps of the likes of former NXGN nominees Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah in making the step up from the youth ranks to the senior squad over the coming years

“There are players like me, Zane, Charlie, Brooke (Norton-Cuffy), Marcelo (Flores) and Jack (Henry-Francis), we’ve been together since U12s and U13s,” explains Hutchinson.

“We’ve been with each other through highs and lows, so the relationship between us is very close. We are like a family and we all want to see each other do well.

”It’s just like the group with Emile, Saka and Joe Willock. If everyone keeps working hard, some of us should hopefully one day get some first-team experience.”

As difficult as things are at Arsenal right now, the success of the Hale End academy continues to be something that everyone connected to the club is quite rightly proud of.

Saka was named Arsenal’s player of the year in 2020-21, and Smith Rowe’s introduction into the first-team last season helped prompt a massive upturn in form during the second half of the campaign.

He has now been rewarded with a new contract and the iconic No.10 shirt, while Saka proudly wears No.7, following in the footsteps of legends such as David Rocastle and Robert Pires.

And for players like Hutchinson who aspire to one day hit such heights, watching players from the academy go on to flourish in senior football is something that fills them with belief that anything is possible.

“When we were at Hale End as U12s, we would see Joe (Willock), Reiss (Nelson) and that lot and we would think they were superstars,” he says.

“Even going to Emirates games and bumping into them, we would always want a picture, and when they used to play for the U23s, we would go and support them.

“Growing up, we wanted to be like them. Saka used to tell us to work hard and that we were not far behind and that used to give us confidence.

“At Hale End there are pictures up on the wall of the boys that have made it and you just want to be up there as well so all the youngsters are looking at hutchinson-arsenal-teenage-internet-sensation-wowed%2Fkmrsarnj0j8d1pvf1qgkqt1a

Hutchinson’s journey through to the U23s at Arsenal has been an interesting one.

He started out as an eight-year-old with Charlton Athletic, where his older brother Oshaye was part of the U15s set-up.

“I got scouted by them when I was playing football in the car park while he was training,” recalls the young attacker.

Even at that early age, Hutchinson was already a bag of tricks with the ball at his feet, thanks largely to years of playing futsal, the small sided-game which is played so widely in South America.

“I used to do it every day after school,” he says. “It was just easier and enjoyable.

“The coaches just said do all the skills you want. You had the freedom to just have fun. I used to watch a lot of Falcao, the Brazilian futsal player. He inspired me a lot.”

He adds: “I’ve always been known as a little skiller. I would say half of it has come from futsal. But also when I was younger, I used to do skills in my front room, in my garden and in my kitchen.

“Straight after school I would get changed and do skills. I loved it.”

Hutchinson stayed with Charlton for two years, but left after his brother got a scholarship at Sheffield United.

The Addicks, however, put a £6,000 compensation clause on his head, and that made finding a new club difficult – as few could justify paying such a price for a 10-year-old.


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