Arsenal vs Chelsea FC Rivalry Exists Within Illinois Basketball Team

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Chelsea are Arsenal are two giant London clubs with popular appeal worldwide. That appeal includes athletes who play other sports, and you’ll find two examples on your 2017-18 Illinois basketball team. Matic Vesel (Arsenal) and Greg Eboigbodin (Chelsea), are two freshmen big men for the Illini, a team and a program that are about to undergo a reset season.

With a new head coach, coaching staff and a slew of newcomers, there will be a lot of new faces getting major minutes in Champaign, and you can include Vessel and Eboigbodin amongst them.

GREG EBOIGBODIN

Eboigbodin, is a native of Benin City, Nigeria who moved to the United States in high school. the 6’9″ 225 forward is a big Chelsea fan.

“I have not missed a game the past for or five years,” he said during our exclusive with him at Illinois basketball Media Day.

We talked about a multitude of Chelsea topics:

-The current team’s prospects and outlook on the season: “It’s too early to lose faith (in the league title race), there’s a long way to go, so we’re not going to give up,” he said.

-His favorite player Eden Hazard: “He’s just special, he can make hard things look easy”

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 -Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, “He’s done a lot of good stuff, when he was at Sussex, Juventus, and as the manager of Italy. I hope he stays long at Chelsea.”

Eboigbodin averaged 13.8 points, 13.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks this past season while shooting 66 percent from the field, helping lead University of Detroit Jesuit to a 20-4 record and state quarterfinals appearance. He also plays soccer very well, as he said his only weakness is on the left side, at left back.

Greg says he can play all positions, even goalkeeper, but his favorite positions to play are attacking midfielder or striker.

MATIC VESEL

Matic Vesel is a 6-foot-9, 215-pound freshman from Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Arsenal fan. He’s got a standing reach of 8-foot-9 and a wingspan of 6-foot-10. In the FIBA U18 Championships he averaged 7.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in an average of 28.2 minutes played for Slovenia.

Vesel played soccer growing up, his position was goalkeeper, and that’s how he became an Arsenal fan. Matic’s all time favorite Gunner is Thierry Henry, while he favors Alexis Sanchez more than anyone on the current roster. He frequently has conversations about Premier League soccer with Eboigbodin. 

“We talk about it all time,” he said. 

Getting back to the hardwood, like a true European big man, he is expected to play more on the perimeter than in the post. He and fellow freshman Da’Monte Williams are considered the two best passers on the team. 

“Matic (Vesel) is extremely skilled,” said Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood. “He handles the ball well, good passer, extremely fast.”

arsenal chelsea 

Eboigbodin is also big on playing soccer video games.

“I’m the best soccer gamer in Champaign, let me put it like that,” he said at Illinois basketball media day.

“Whoever I play I kill them, I beat them so bad.”

Most of the time he plays the FIFA video game with Chelsea but he also often plays in a master league where he can stack up a team with stars from Real Madrid and other elite teams. 

Additionally, we asked his thoughts on that north London club which plays at the Emirates. 

“I don’t have a problem with Arsenal, we know how to handle them,” he said. 

“A lot of their fans say they need to change their manager but I don’t know I cannot solve their problem, but I just think they need to find a way to hold on to the big names, and if a manager is not working, then they need to get someone else, that’s what I think,” he added at Illinois basketball media day. 

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Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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