Talking Talent with Folarin Balogun. Folarin Balogun has lit up Ligue 1 Uber Eats since joining Stade de Reims on loan from Arsenal. The Ligue 1 Show’s Matt Spiro sat down for a chat with the 17-goal striker…
Question: Folarin, thank you for giving us some time. How are you enjoying life, how are things?
Folarin Balogun: “Yeah, it’s really good. I’m just enjoying the experience, learning the new language with my teammates every day. So it’s good.”
Question: It was a big decision for a young English player to move over here and to play in France. What was the key factor in agreeing to this loan?
Balogun: “I had a lot of advice from my agent, family and obviously the club, being Arsenal. But I think at the end of the day the key factor was just myself. I’m somebody who just wants to take a risk. I always try to push myself and put myself in uncomfortable situations because I know that’s how I get the best [out of myself].”
Question: You don’t have your mates and everything you know around you, so is it a case of just focusing on the football here?
Balogun: “It’s not as easy being here, on a weekend I can’t just shout them to go out and do something. So it’s a bit more lonely, but it’s taught me a lot and I’ve learned to be more comfortable in my own company and it’s definitely helped me to mature.”
Question: ‘Comment ça va le français?’
Balogun: “Ummm… I think you are asking me how is my French (laughs). We have meetings every other day, analyzing the opponents, and as time goes on I can understand more and more of the meetings. I’ve still got people to help me translate it. I’m definitely getting the hang of it, but to speak it’s a bit more difficult.”
Question: The coach is good at English and French. We saw him in a training session giving you a hard time for not speaking French very well. What’s he like with you?
Balogun: “Yeah, I mean Will [Still]’s fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for anything better coming out here. As you said he speaks English just as good as if I were back home, and he speaks French just as good as anyone here, so it’s a pleasure to have him. He’s really, really good with all the players, he can also speak I think it’s Flemish with the Dutch guys. So it’s phenomenal. I can’t praise him anymore.”
Balogun: “Will’s a very young manager and when I first came here he was the assistant. When Oscar Garcia left he stepped up to be the head coach, and he’s taken that role with so much ease, and he’s made it look so comfortable like he’s been doing it forever. He’s keeping me on my toes every day and I know I can’t take a break and I’ve just got to keep the intensity.”
Question: What advice does he give you in particular?
Balogun: “He really encourages me not to relax, you know. He thinks he sees potential in me and he wants me to achieve it. So he just wants me to be relentless and as efficient as possible.”
Question: You’re scoring regularly, and you’re looking strong, and confident. How do you think you’ve grown through this season as a player?
Balogun: “I remember when I first came here and I played, I came on against Marseille to make my debut, and I mean the atmosphere there was crazy and it was really something that I haven’t experienced before. I just thought that as the games have gone on, I’ve integrated more into the team. I’ve felt more comfortable with the French culture, and I just feel more mature as a footballer. So that’s what I set out to come here to do, and I’m happy I’m starting to see it.”
Question: That debut in Marseille, must have been an eye-opener.
Balogun: “Yes, it was crazy. It was just like going into a zombie apocalypse. It was something I haven’t seen before. I’ve played in hostile grounds in England, but for sure Marseille away for me was a very, very crazy game.”
Question: It was only a consolation goal because I think you were 3-0 down, but how important was it for you to get off the mark at the Vélodrome?
Balogun: “As an attacking player, the quicker you can get that first goal, it makes life easier for you. The longer it takes, the pressure starts to build up and you start to hear things and you’re almost questioning when will it come. And you’re then almost trying too hard for the goal. So to get it in my first appearance and debut was really helpful.”