Unknown in France, Frédéric Brillant lives his American dream. DC United, the 34-year-old defender tells his USA.
When we had trouble like you, turned pro at 26, and we end up with Patrick Vieira on the phone, then in the locker room with Pirlo, Lampard, Villa and Rooney, we have the impression of living his American dream?
I spoke again yesterday with a friend with whom I played in Belgian D3. I had the qualities, etc. but you also needed luck, work. At the time, I was working at the factory, training in the evening like a bitch and the doors opened. It does not come alone. We can say now that this is the American dream because never, when I was still in amateurs, I would have thought to be trained by Vieira or play with such players, I watched them on TV (laughs). It's great.
What aroused you the most when you moved from Belgium to the United States?
I joined the team for a month of internship in Florida. The heat was stifling but the return to New York was very cold (laughs). In fact, everything is different from life in Belgium. We travel without stopping by plane, the League does not stop growing, the craze is very strong with stadiums almost filled each time. It is an extraordinary adventure.
You joined MLS and New York City FC in 2016. Since then, have you felt a fervor grow?
From year to year, we feel the difference. And we still see it with this tour of French clubs. People are becoming more interested in MLS. There is money, entrepreneurs who want to grow this League. And I believe that in a few years, it will be one of the big world championships.
I hear that the MLS is a retired championship but it is not!
Is soccer becoming trendy?
When I arrived, soccer was a little away from major American sports (baseball, basketball, American football). But now, he has taken a place alongside these sports. Supporters are present, TVs also with all our games broadcast, etc. For example, in some league games, a giant screen is installed here in DC (Washington) for fans.
From the top of your 102 MLS games, where do you rank the championship level?
In my first year, the game was really open, not easy for defensemen, with lots of space and fast players. But it evolves very fast, and now it really plays football. I will not say that it is the same level as in France, everything is different. I hear in Europe or France that the MLS is a retired championship but that is not the case! Many players want to come because they realize that the level is good. There are a lot of South Americans and then, when we see European clubs come looking for young people here, it's proof of the level of the championship.
In MLS, stadiums and facilities are often very good …
The Audi Field, for example, is a brand new stadium, with an American architecture, not closed. It's not very big but always full. What we miss here in DC is the training grounds. It will happen. All clubs now have new infrastructure.
How do Americans judge Ligue 1?
They have a look a little outside, they are not really interested, except of course the PSG and from time to time Marseille. At the same time, if you want to be interested in L1 here, you really have to get the chains. This tour will be beneficial for everyone, the MLS and the French clubs. The United States is so big that there is also something to do for France, at the level of supporters, investors.
Are you talking about this tour?
Of course. I'm mostly asked for OM jerseys (laughs). No, but it's still something to play against OM (DC will face OM on July 24, Ed) especially for me, a player who comes from nowhere. I talk to my friends, to the French. I will try to scratch a few minutes with the coach (laugh).
Apart from the PSG and from time to time Marseille, if we want to be interested in the L1 here …
How do Americans live football, at the stadium or out?
It's like American football, we go outside on the parking stadiums and we see people doing their barbecue behind the car, their kids playing. There is a whole facility, an organization, they prepare well in advance of the match and they spend their day to live it.
Would you advise young people to try their luck in MLS?
Of course ! Especially those who do not succeed in training centers. Often, some people give up. But if you do not succeed in a club, it does not mean that you will not succeed in another. We must give ourselves the means to succeed. A French guard who was at the university in Philadelphia came to train with us. He is delighted with this experience, has passed his degrees and he does not want to return. On the other hand, passing the university-MLS level is harder.