A “system that was non-inclusive” made the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13 “predictable”, according to Manchester City and Belgium centre-back Vincent Kompany.
Kompany grew up in Brussels near Molenbeek, the borough that has become known as the centre of jihadi fighters. But the neighbourhood, he says, reflects wider concerns throughout the Belgian capital.
“It is not just Molenbeek. It is many boroughs in the city,” he told CNN in his first interview since the Paris attacks.
“There are many communities that live in a small city that do not know anything about each other anymore.
“It is very easy to exploit those who are most in need who come from these areas.”
Kompany placed the blame for the rise in Islamic terrorism in Brussels on the failure of politicians to address these divisions and the city’s financial inequities.
“It’s a very wealthy city but a lot of the people that live in this wealthy city are actually the poor ones…and to say that it’s a hotbed of terrorism, I think it goes further than this.”
“The way the entire city’s structure is favourable for a lot of people to, you know, fall out of the system very simply. I mean we have a city of a million people divided in 19 boroughs with 19 mayors and six police zones.”
The people living in these communities, said Kompany, were unrepresented by their politicians.
“You cannot underestimate the factor that we do not have a government representative of those areas.
“The people making the decisions have never been in contact with those kinds of areas, they have always seen it from a helicopter view, never from the street.
“I find it hard to relate to people in the state talking about the problems in those areas and that is a problem.”
Kompany grew up in an area where 90 per cent of the population was Muslim. While he derides the actions and cause of Islamic terrorism, he understands the factors that could have led his neighbours to join it.
“We enjoyed living there but what kept coming back was a feeling of injustice.
“From my area, kids that had a chance to come in touch with different cultures from other areas of the country, you would then naturally fall back into place when you made a decision as to whether go radical, or allow this world to continue and have an input into this world in a different way.
It was his parents’ education that allowed him to escape the indoctrination that had entrapped Brussels’ more vulnerable residents.
“My mother worked for the unemployment office in Brussels,” he said. “She was blonde, blue eyes and white, but one of the first things she told us, because our skin was black, was, ‘you will have to work twice as hard as kids from another area to succeed in life.’ That was her message.”
His voice drops an octave and his arms unfold from his lap to gesture passionately when talk turns to his country’s national team and their role in representing the community.
“When I was a kid, in my neighbourhood, no one supported Belgium, it was impossible, unthinkable. As much as I speak about no one relating to the government, no one could relate to the national team.
“Today I walk the streets of Brussels and young kids of French origin, Arab origin, Congolese origins, everyone is happy to wear the colours of Belgium, or most of them. That is another signal we need to send.”
The politicians may not represent these communities, but Kompany and his Belgian teammates are trying to fill the gap where they have failed.