TOBY ALDERWEIRELD is the real thing — even if he does not see it.

The Tottenham defender, despite 98 caps for Belgium and a glittering club career, insists he is not a star.

Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld insists he is not a star
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The children at a North London primary school, where the Belgian paid a surprise visit this week to launch a poetry competition, clearly begged to differ.

The looks of disbelief on the excited pupils’ faces restored your faith in football and humanity.

And Alderweireld, used to playing in front of screaming fans, seemed as surprised as anybody in the classroom.

He said: “For me it is still strange to see people react like that when they see me.

“I do not see myself as a big star or anything like that.

“It’s strange and nice when people are always happy to see you.

“I am no big deal. I don’t see myself as some sort of superstar so it makes you proud to know you inspire people, especially children.”

So why is Alderweireld so grounded when many of his contemporaries have let their fame go to their heads? He said: “I think it’s because of my education and my parents. Maybe being Belgian as well.

Alderweireld paid a surprise visit to the Crowland Primary School in Tottenham

The Belgian encourage entries into this year’s Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition
Pro Sports Images

“Our mentality is always to be down to earth and work hard.”

Alderweireld, who turns 31 on Monday, grew up in a working class family in Antwerp.

He said: “My mother stayed at home and looked after me and my two brothers, while my father worked in the chemical industry and always had two jobs.

“So actually my mother was always there and father wasn’t there, he was always at work providing for us.

“That way of living and working hard is all I know.

“Does it make me appreciate what I have now? Of course.

“My father doesn’t like me telling this story but when we were growing up we didn’t go out for dinner a lot.

“But every two months we would go out for a pizza as a treat and I was only allowed to order one Coke with my meal.

“So I had to eat all of my meal with just one drink. It is something that has stayed with me.

Alderweireld made 98 caps for Belgium in his glittering career
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“Even now when I go out for a meal and order a second Coke I think ‘Wow, yeah!’. I’m so pleased I can now order a second Coke. Don’t get me wrong, my parents always gave us everything we needed but it was always earned with hard work.

“I remember after school and in the holidays me and my little brother going to help our father clean apartment blocks.

“I am not ashamed of that, the opposite. I feel proud. It’s important to know where you come from.”

Alderweireld recently became a father for the second time when his wife gave birth to Jace, younger brother to their 18-month daughter Ayla.

The proud father then made a mad dash from Antwerp through Storm Ciara, via Eurostar and in a car, to play and score in Spurs’ 3-2 win at Aston Villa.

The drama and chaos epitomised his last 18 months at the club, where for a while it looked like he was on his way out.

With his contract running down he found himself left out of the team by former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

But Alderweireld fought his way back in and helped the North Londoners reach their first — and his second — Champions League final, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid in June.

Alderweireld recently became a father for the second time when his wife gave birth to Jace
Twitter @AlderweireldTob

After the birth of Jace Alderweireld made a mad dash from Antwerp to play and score in Spurs’ 3-2 win at Villa

The club then triggered a contract extension before a poor start to the season resulted in Poch being sacked and replaced with Jose Mourinho in November.

And weeks later, Alderweireld put pen to paper on a new three-and-a-half year contract.

The former Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Southampton ace, who lines up for Spurs at home to Wolves tomorrow, said: “I wasn’t thinking too much about my future.

“I’m not arrogant but my view has always been ‘As long as I do my best, the best will come to me’.

“The former manager never gave me any reasons for not playing me, but I understand that.

“I am not the guy who knocks on his door and says ‘Hey, what about me?’. I think that is very selfish and I would never do that.

“You have to think about the team and not yourself.”

Alderweireld was schooled in the Ajax academy and won three Dutch titles before a 2013 switch to Atletico, where he played under Diego Simeone.

He added: “At Ajax it is all about playing. But I remember the first time in Madrid training I controlled the ball in the 18-yard box and he said ‘Stop! Never do that!’. I never repeated it!

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“But I learned a lot from him. All the activity, football-wise and long balls and passing I got from Ajax. But pure defending and knowing how important it is to win, I learned from him.

“I may not have played so much but I learned a lot. I won the league there, played the final of the Champions League and I am grateful to him.”

Alderweireld recently signed a new three-and-a-half year contract
PA:Press Association

  • Toby visited Crowland Primary School in Tottenham to encourage entries into this year’s Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition.