'I like "rocket" more'
Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, FC Bayern. Kingsley Coman knows how to assert himself within the biggest teams. In conversation with club magazine '51', Bayern's number 29 talks about his roots, his family, injuries and following in the footsteps of Franck Ribéry.
You can read the complete interview in the current issue of '51'.
The interview with Kingsley Coman
You have roots in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, you grew up in France and now you're at home in Bavaria. Are you a child of different worlds?
"Yes, I have been all my life. Apart from me, my whole family was born in Guadeloupe. I grew up in the Paris suburbs, where life isn't always easy. Despite my Caribbean heritage, I've always felt French but I've now been living abroad for five years, I speak English every day with my girlfriend, speak German with my teammates. In fact, I speak more German and English than French these days. I like the whole mix. I think it's nice that I can combine multiple cultures and try to take the best bits from each world. Diversity can only benefit you."
You regularly visit your relatives in Guadeloupe. What's life like there?
"I was last there two years ago. In between that, I also like discovering a few new places but I'll be flying to Guadeloupe again this Christmas. Spending the holidays there is wonderful. I'm not seen as a football star there – just as Kingsley. It's very comfortable in Guadeloupe. The people are extremely friendly. They recognise me but they also respect that I want to have some peace and quiet with my family. It's for that reason that I'm very much looking forward to it."
What do your two grandmothers say about your life abroad and your career in the big wide world of football?
"They're both obviously very proud of me. To be honest, I don't know if they completely understand this life I lead, but I know they're proud. It's funny: one of them can't see anymore and always listens to my games on the radio. She then rates my performance according to how often she hears my name. To her, the more the commentators mention me, the better I've played – and vice versa."
„"It was my first final as a first-team regular - she wanted to watch it whatever it took"”
Your mum turned up at a sports bar in Munich to watch you in the cup final this year – how did you find that? The whole of Munich was thrilled by her charming appearance...
"This story didn't surprise me. That's just how my mum is. She was only getting French television channels in my flat that evening, she couldn't watch the game. She was desperate to, so she went to a bar. I think every mother understands that: it was a final, my first final as a first-team regular, so she had no choice – she wanted to watch it whatever it took. The people in the pub were very friendly. They made extra room for her, even though the bar was actually full. She didn't say my name at first because she would never exploit the fact that she's my mother. For her, it was just about watching this game. She brought luck: we won and I scored a goal."
You inherited your pace from your father. Is it true that you raced against him as a child?
"Yes, and when I was 13 or 14, I was suddenly faster than him and then he suddenly didn't want to compete against me anymore. My family have helped me on my journey a lot. My dad always drove me to training after his work. That was about 70 kilometres around the city from Moissy – anyone who knows the traffic in Paris knows how long that takes."
How do you like the nickname 'rocket'?
"I like it a lot. At Paris Saint-Germain, my friend Mike Maignan – who's now an international – named me 'the moped'. I like rocket more – it's faster than a moped (grins)."
Nicolas Anelka and Anthony Martial also have their roots in Guadeloupe. Usain Bolt comes from Jamaica – why are Caribbean legs so fast?
"It's perhaps to do with our genes. Or in our diet: people eat very well there. In fact, lots of players from the Caribbean are very quick, although funnily enough, I don't enjoy sprinting itself at all. I need the ball at my feet. Obviously you have to sprint without it to get into advanced positions, but I much prefer using my pace to dribble. And jogging gets on my nerves even more. I can play football for hours, but 20 minutes of just running doesn't interest me."
Franck Ribéry was like a brother to you. He stayed for 12 years, defined an era – would you like to create a similar story here?
(grins) "I've been playing at Bayern for five years now – that's almost half. In all seriousness, I'm only 23 so I have around 10 more years at the highest level ahead of me. It's too early to predict my whole career path. Of course I can picture myself staying 12 years like Franck, and then I'd still be young and have enough time to discover two or three new countries. I'm sure that I'll stay at Bayern for a long time yet. The city is great, the club are very good, we're winning trophies – we're just missing the Champions League. Apart from the weather, I wouldn't change a thing."
Your last injury was a muscle strain in February. After your injury woes with the two syndesmosis tears in succession, have you changed anything in your lifestyle?
"Yes, I had two operations in the same place, and both times I couldn't do anything for eight weeks. When you have so much time to think, it changes you. I started to become more interested in cooking, fashion, a bit of everything. The main thing was it was away from football. Now, when I'm tired or a bit stressed, I think back to that time and quickly realise that it's always better to be tired but still be healthy. When you're injured, you miss nothing more than the football pitch."
After the second operation, a statement from you that you would retire if it didn't get better caused a stir. Were you being serious?
"Perhaps I need to clarify that a bit: I meant if it immediately happened to me for a third time. I'd just fought back and said that I didn't want a third operation. That's just how I felt at that moment, but now everything's all right."
You and Serge Gnabry were supposed to step out of the big shadows of Ribéry and Arjen Robben this season. Have you succeeded in that?
"I've played a lot of games since my last injury. I feel the trust of the club, I feel like an important part of the team and I want to keep contributing more and more in the future, off the pitch too. I'm working as hard as possible. Franck and Arjen were here for over a decade, they had great careers. There's more to that than just always playing well, which is hard enough. I hope that I'll also have a great career in my own right."