Despite not drinking Kölsch, Cologne’s local beer, Anthony Modeste can see himself staying in the city after his playing days are over. The 33-year-old talks about the role his new coach played in his return to the Billygoats, his motto for life, and the important impact his family has had – and continues to have – on his career.
What does the new coach Steffen Baumgart have to do with Anthony Modeste’s comeback?
Yes, he definitely gave me a lot of confidence. A lot of trust. I also invested a lot in this, personally. Like I said, the preparation was very important. For every player but especially for me because I hadn’t the past two, three years. Like I said, I feel good now. We will see what happens.
The last thing you said about the coach was: “I love him. When the coach is behind you, it makes things easier.” Is it really that simple and why?
It is not simple but when a coach is behind you, it makes everything easier. Whenever a coach gave me his confidence, I always rewarded him. That is the way it is working now, as well.
As a player on the field, do you actually notice how the coach acts on the sidelines?
Yes, I have already called him the “lion behind the line”. He sees everything. He pushes you, always. Sometimes too much but we prefer too much than too little. I think he is doing it right. We are following his way and, in the end, it is our way as well. For now, everyone is satisfied.
That makes FC one of the teams with the most running power in the league so far. How important is a high willingness to run for a successful game and also for you as a striker?
Thank God that we are at the top. We are running a lot of meters in training so we have to do the same in the games. In football, stamina plays a part. We are doing it well. We had a really great pre-season. For now, we are being rewarded but the season is still long.
You have won over 50% of all duels. That’s a lot for a striker. Why do the defenders have such a hard time against the new Tony?
I don’t know. It is only a number that can change throughout the season. Obviously, it is good for me so that is great. Like I said, I have put a lot in it and for now, it is working well.
In Cologne, fans are also happy that the glasses celebration is back. Where does this celebration comes from?
It was a story about my wife because there is an emoji on WhatsApp that I sent her once. She said that it looked exactly like me. How can I describe it: funny but on the other hand, a bit like an idiot! I told her that I would act like that if I scored that day and (doing the celebration) I did.
Is it actually true that you had 2 teeth pulled in the spring and since then the muscle problems have stopped?
A lot of things played a part in that. Wisdom teeth play their own part. Obviously, it has made things easier. For now, it has gotten a lot better. We have to see how it continues.
How important are your wife and two children to you, and how important is it that they are often at the games?
Family is always important. Now, I have a lot of friends. The past couple of years, I didn’t. You notice how important family is for you when you go through difficult moments and your family is always there for you. When everything is going well, you have a lot of friends around you but of course, family is important for every person, especially in terms of the games but for me and for every person, family must play a very important role.
Why is Cologne so special to you that you want to stay in Cologne after your career?
Because Cologne gave me a lot and so did I, in return. I think the complete package is really good but like I said, I have a contract. We will see what happens. Maybe I still want to continue playing football. Maybe I will still be here or somewhere else. I will definitely come back though.
And then from 2023 maybe as a youth coach at FC or what’s the plan?
I have a contract but we will see. My job would be to play with professionals because for me, the striker position is a special position. There are goalkeeper coaches. Why not striker coaches? That is why I would want to pursue this opportunity.
Let’s go back to your roots. Anthony, you’re 33 years old now, you’ve experienced so much in soccer – can you actually still remember your very first game as a kid?
Yes. I played at center-back because I wanted to play in the same position as my father. I was six years old. It was in France – in Frejus. 2:1. Headed goal from me. One, not two.
Can you describe how soccer fascinated you as a child?
Taking on those physical duels. The fight. Like I said, I followed my father’s path and I thought it was really fun.
When did you realise that soccer might be more than just a hobby and that you could turn pro one day?
Honestly, it was really hard for me at the beginning because I wasn’t in the starting eleven. I was also injured a lot. I was always on the bench. I worked harder than everyone else. In the end, I was the only one that got a professional contract and no one else. You are never allowed to quit. You have to keep working and believing in yourself.
What memories do you have of your youth in Nice?
The sea. Good weather with family and friends and the beach. There is no beach here. That is a big difference.
Who has supported you in soccer? To whom are you particularly grateful?
It is difficult. Too many. I can only think of one thing: I was with the second team. Another striker was with me. His father was the coach of the second team. If the first team ever needed a striker from the second team, he was always there and I wasn’t. One time, we played a game – second team against the first team. I scored two goals and from then on, I was with the first team and he never was again! Gerard Buchard but I don’t know what he is up to or whether he is still coaching.
Your family has roots in Martinique – you were once asked to play for the national team there – what other connections do you have there?
I have asked myself that. I never found the right moment to go over but maybe at some point. I don’t know what the future will hold.
Your father was a professional, you are a professional – what about your son? Can he take on your legacy and become a pro too?
I don’t know. I can’t answer that but my wife and I want Brooklyn to do sport. It doesn’t have to be football as long as he does some sport.
Were there moments when you had doubts about making the breakthrough in professional soccer?
Yes, there were some moments, especially when I was younger and I didn’t want to play center-back anymore. I wanted to play as a striker and the coach didn’t want me to. I said I wouldn’t come anymore. I would play handball or start Hip Hop. I didn’t come to training for a week and my coach called my mother and told her to make me come back. That is why I missed training but you have to continue believing in yourself.
What are the most important friendships you’ve made throughout your career?
It is hard to have friends in football. If you have one or two, it is already a lot.
You started playing soccer in France, but you were also with Blackburn in England, then with Hoffenheim in Germany. Why is it particularly fun in the Bundesliga?
Obviously, Blackburn Rovers wasn’t too good an experience for me even though I thought it would fit perfectly with my football but sometimes things don’t work out. That is why I tried in Germany and it worked much better than in England. It has a lot to do with preparation and courage. I have been much happier in Germany because I have played here longer than I have in France.
Your time in China was not so successful from a sporting point of view. Why was China nevertheless an important experience in your life?
The football was successful for me. I scored a lot of goals but it wasn’t the right moment to go. I knew that but I don’t think I need to repeat what happened. Now, I am happy to be back.
And how do you look back on this very special year with FC: 16/17 saw an outstanding 25 of your goals from Köln’s 51 (49% – league best) and 3rd place in the scoring charts (behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski)?
It is always something special to score so many goals as a striker. We reached the Europa League. The entire club was happy. We have to remember that.
Is there a motto for Anthony Modeste’s life?
He chases his luck. It is true because if you don’t work you cannot. I am in the position to say something like this. I didn’t play for two years. I barely did anything. If you invest more, you will be rewarded. From nothing, comes nothing!