Our latest blog interview gives you an opportunity to get a glimpse inside the mind of a goalkeeper with a boatload of European experience, plenty of International caps under his belt, and a new adventure just getting underway in the United States. Former Bordeaux goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda shared plenty of the wisdom he has gained on his journey and gives us some insight into his new journey in the United Soccer League!
1. You come from a goalkeeping family; three brothers playing the position professionally. Where did this love of goalkeeping come from?
Yes, I think the passion is in our blood. We also had an uncle in the Congo who was a goalkeeper.
2. What was your youth career like in France? Was your main focus always to become a professional soccer player?
When I was young, I quickly joined the professional group. I was 16 and I was with the first team already. In front of me was Costil who was the third goalkeeper in Caen so it was a bit complicated. Then I went to Bordeaux to join the reserve squad while also training with the professional group. This is the time when my brother, Steve, was getting stronger and I was compared a lot to him which shaped my mind.
3. Describe your breakthrough into professional soccer. How was the transition from academy to the top level?
Between the academy and the high level, it was quite easy because I was already training with the professional group. I picked up plenty of experience even though training and playing games is totally different. The goalkeeping position is about mentality and it takes time to mentally get to that level.
4. What was the competition like between your brothers? Do you think those competitive relationships helped you reach the heights in your career that you have?
There is no competition between us. Rather mutual aid because we understand each other as goalkeepers. We understand when there are complicated situations. Those relationships have helped us to cross competition levels more easily.
5. You've played internationally for both France (at the youth level) and Congo DR (at the full international level). Describe the decision to play for the Congo instead of France?
Yes, it's true when I was young I was selected by the youth national team of France. At the age of 18 I chose the Congo. It was a choice of the heart. As an African, I wanted to represent the nation, my country, my origins, and make my parents proud.
6. Most of your career has been spent in Europe, specifically France & Belgium. Being a black goalkeeper in these environments, how have you been received by both opposing fans and your own fans?
Yes it's true that I have played all my life in Europe; France and Belgium. As a black goalkeeper, it was a little more complicated. At the time, I had two challenges to overcome. First, my name Mandanda because I was young and my brother Steve was growing in strength. Second, my skin color. As an African player, sometimes the judgements are not correct.
7. You now play in the USL Championship in the United States. Why the switch to America at this point in your career?
I had the opportunity to come to Harford thanks to the people who take care of my; my agents but also thanks to my coach. I didn't hesitate much because the United States is a country and a championship that makes you dream. The reason I'm here is because I had the opportunity that I've never had before.
8. What are some of the big differences in playing/training style between the USL and other leagues you've played in?
It's almost the same because the coach tries to breathe things that come from Europe. So far, we've played two MLS reserve teams which are mainly young players. I can give you a more in-depth answer after we play more games.
9. What advice do you have for young goalkeepers looking to reach the professional level?
The advice I can give to young goalkeepers is to never give up developing your mind. Also, give 100% in training which will show up in games.
10. Who would win a penalty shootout between you and your brothers?
If there is a penalty shootout between my brothers and me? Of course I'll be the winner!