‘Our strength is our mindset’

You are in your third season at Téfécé, where you wear the captain’s armband. Can you sum up the values of the team?
“First of all, I’m proud to be captain in a foreign country. I have done my best to achieve this. Here we are all friends; I think the important thing is not so much to be friends off the field, but on the field to give our all for each other. If you know that you can count on your teammates to help you, it gives you strength. When you know that the others are giving everything, you know that you can go very far with your team. So we encourage each other, which gives us all energy. Our strength at TFC is our mindset. We are all good players, but with that we can go even higher.”

You can go ‘even higher’ with the Coupe de France final on Saturday.
“After the title we won in Ligue 2 BKT, it would be wonderful to win this too. It’s a national cup from a great European country. But we are not there yet.”

‘Branco hates to lose…even in training’

You speak French very well, but you’re a native Flemish speaker. Does that allow you to get along with the three Dutchmen in the team (Stijn Spierings, Thijs Dallinga and Branco van den Boomen)?
“The four of us get on very well! Sometimes we make bets with each other and the one who loses has to go and wash the car of the one who won or go shopping for him. We try to be inventive! The fact that we speak the same language also helps us on the field. But just because there are a lot of foreigners in the team doesn’t mean we won’t speak French. The proof is that Branco speaks French now. He does it because he wants to adapt. He is more than a friend to me. He came to my wedding. We’ve been playing together for three years. We are really united with him and Stijn. Branco is a maestro. He knows how to break lines with a pass, how to create chances. He’s a winner. He hates to lose, even in training… He is also a leader within the group.”

Can you remind us in what context you joined Toulouse FC in Ligue 2 BKT in 2020?
“The year before I came here I was not playing at La Gantoise with the new coach (Bölöni). I didn’t want to stay at a big club just for the name. What I wanted was to play. So when Toulouse came my way, I took the chance.”

Finally, it seems that you have always played as a midfielder. Where did you start in football?
“I was a goalkeeper until I was 16. But as I was too short (1.73m), I changed positions. My father always told me: ‘As a player you have talent, but as a goalkeeper you were super talented’. I was training at Club Brugge, where they were already paying a lot of attention to the goalkeepers, who had to do all the technical training with the players. So my first role model was Buffon, and then as a player Zidane, but especially Messi.”

Toulouse FC take on FC Nantes in the Coupe de France final at the Stade de France at 21:00 on Saturday, 29 April.

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