Aurélien Collin is a French Venezuelan soccer player who plays as a defender for the Philadelphia Union in the MLS. Originally from France, he played for different teams in Europe before signing a contract to play in the MLS for the Sporting Kansas City in 2011. Two years later, he won the championship with the team and was awarded Most Valuable Player of the Finals after scoring 3 goals in 5 games (which is pretty amazing and unusual for a defender). In our conversation, Aurélien shares how he spends his time at home with his wife during the confinement, his career in the American League, and even his encounter with Barack Obama at the White House. A great gentleman, very humble with the mindset of a champion.
Aurélien Collin: I come from a French department called Yvelines located on the west side of Paris. Like a lot of kids, I have always wanted to become a professional footballer. My friends and I were playing outside all the time. Later, I started to play for my local team and eventually worked my way up to play for Versailles, which was the biggest team in the area with Paris Saint Germain at the time.
At age 16, I joined the training center to become a pro. That led me to play in different teams across Europe and after I got the opportunity to go play in the US. My goal was to return to Europe, but I really enjoyed life in the US and never got a serious enough opportunity to consider going back to Europe. I have been an MLS soccer player for 10 years now.
My best qualities are my faith and my commitment. I am a hard worker. I never give up.
Whoever wants it the most and works for it will win and succeed. This works on every level. I wasn’t the best technically but I have always worked more than everyone else. Without this mindset, I would have never played in the US.
Life in the US is very pleasant. They are very professional, open-minded, and enthusiastic. People are huge sports fans and teams have amazing stadiums. Besides, I get the chance to travel across the country during the season, and I love cities with a European influence. Ironically, it made me realize how much I love France and Europe in general.
Everything! From the culture, the History, to the food and our wines, and of course my family. I left France when I was 19 and I realized with time how beautiful is our country. My wife is from Venezuela and speaks French, we try to spend at least 3 weeks every year in France during the offseason.
Yes! It was such a great experience! Going to the White House and meet with the President. Besides, he mentioned me in his speech and made some jokes about my fashion stores and my style. It was probably prepared because I was the MVP but it was an immense surprise for me and I will never forget it.
Marcel Desailly! When I started, a defender was like a soldier and the position really evolved these last 15 years. Today, players like Sergio Ramos or even Van Dijk who plays for Liverpool are so technical, they are even faster than forwards.
I live in an apartment in the city. There is no balcony and the rooftop is currently closed. So, I mostly do indoor cycling training and I join my wife for online Zumba classes with her friends. I am a big boxing fan, we like to do some training together as well. Besides, I try to take advantage of my free time to take some classes in Theology and soccer lessons to become a coach someday.
Coach Joe: You wear the number 78 on your jersey, what does that represent for you to wear the number of the French department where we both come from?
Aurélien: That’s an easy one! It is an honor to be able to represent the place where I grew up and where I am from. Arriving in the US, I got the opportunity to choose my number, which is usually not possible in Europe, it was obvious to me to pick 78, the symbol of where I come from.
Very eclectic! I listen to a lot of music and what I am listening to can vary depending on my environment, the moment, or my mood. I grew up with French Hip Hop. But I also love to go to Opera, dancing salsa, or I like to play some jazz while I am cooking for instance.
It is really my faith. I am happy with my career and I am comfortable financially. Without my faith, I would not be where I am today. Giving up my life to Jesus allowed me to choose a more stable life, to meet my wife, to be smarter in my choices, my finances, and to maintain relationships with certain friends.
As a footballer and all its stereotypes you can imagine, I was in need of a more meaningful life and I have started to follow this path after my second year in the US.
On a practice day, it starts when I wake up at 7. I drink a cup of coffee with a cookie or something and drive to the training center. I have breakfast, then heading to the gym where it starts with some stretch, warm-up, and some light workout. After that, it is practice time with the team, back to the gym again for another session. We have lunch at 2 at the center, and I am back home around 3. I used to take a nap in the afternoon, but it is messing sleep cycles, that is why I prefer to read now instead. Most of the time The Bible or books related to Christ. In the evening, my wife and I cook, and I try to go to bed not too late for a solid 9 to 10 hours night of sleep.
Gameday: It starts with a good breakfast. Then, I will read a book or watch a movie with my wife for instance. I also like to speak on the phone with family in France. For lunch, I usually eat pasta with meatballs, take a nap in the afternoon for 1.5H to 2 hours. And then it is time to go to the stadium for the game!
offseason: I am really off [laughs] I like to enjoy life, that includes good food with wine or rum with the moderation of course, and dancing with my wife, we love that! Now that I am getting older, I never exceed 5 days without working out. I have a house in Venezuela, we like to spend time there. We also enjoy visiting my family in France. We love to travel too, especially in Spain, Madrid is one of our favorite cities.
The notoriety and interest in the sport increased for sure. I arrived to play for Kansas City in the best conditions with amazing fans and a brand new stadium. The main difference is all the smaller teams disappeared and today we are left with big franchises only. The level itself hasn’t really changed but the number of fans, the enthusiasm, and the arrival of big teams such as Los Angeles FC, Atlanta, or New York CFC with big stadiums. To really improve the level, the league would need to hire some European coaches but the choice of the league is to grow internally and I respect that.
It is such a pleasure to evolve in this league, playing in front of 60.000 spectators, the entertainment, the fireworks…For example, Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world.
I would love to but I did all my career on the East Coast and that is where my life is. Besides, it is more European which is closer to my lifestyle and my roots.
I wanted to play for New York Red Bulls! It was my dream and my goal to live in this city and play for this team.
When I won the championship with Kansas City and became MVP. In Europe, I was playing for smaller teams trying to maintain in the league, it was my first time experiencing winning a championship with a team and even win the MVP trophy.
As I am getting older, my role in the team is to help the new generation. I really like this part and I really want to be involved in helping these young kids and make sure they make the best and smartest decisions for themselves. Sharing knowledge and experience makes me grow as a person. I would like to become a coach and why not become a coach for an MLS team someday.
I receive a lot of messages from young players especially from France who play in League 1 or in League 2. I highly recommend young players to come to the US. The level in the US is still lower than in France and the system is more open-minded in America. They can play football and study at the University.
They have the opportunity to turn pro or be drafted. And if doesn’t work for them, they have a college degree and are able to find a job. It is a smart decision. Jerome Meary is one of my friends. He has his own company and he helps a lot of young guys to come to play in the US.
Olivier Giroud, in addition, to be a talented soccer player, he is a great guy and very humble. You should also interview Joël Thibault, a beautiful and selfless person who helps a lot of players in their journey and with their relationship with Christ.
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