Interviews

Danley Jean Jacques flying the Haiti flag high in Ligue 1

Danley Jean Jacques flying the Haiti flag high in Ligue 1

Interviews
Publish on 03/02 at 11:45

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FC Metz midfielder Danley Jean Jacques talks to us about Haiti. From the local leagues to the Grenadiers, via sos pwa rice, Wyclef and Placide.

You left Haiti to join FC Metz at the end of the summer of 2021. Was it your first time in France?

No, I'd already come to Le Havre for a trial but it didn't work out for me. It's hard to prove your worth and show all your qualities in just one week. A little later, I came back to France for a trial at Metz and you know the rest... But before coming to France, I had travelled quite a lot with the Haitian youth teams, I had been to a lot of Caribbean countries, to the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Panama...

How did you adapt to Metz?

That's great! Because I'm shy, I kept to myself a bit at the beginning. I just did my job, went to training and didn't let it bother me. I generally adapt very quickly, although it's true that the cold was a challenge! The first winter was a bit complicated but I managed to get used to it afterwards.

What do you miss most about being in France?

Haitian cuisine (laughs)! My favourite dish is riz sos pwa (a recipe based on white rice and a thick pea purée). That's the best, especially when my mother cooks it! But I never eat it in Metz because I don't know how to cook! What else do I miss? Warmth and my family, of course.

Do you manage to make Haiti part of your daily life in Metz?

It's not my idea. I don't really have anything that reminds me of Haiti at home, for example. I concentrate on football and I try not to think too much about my country or my family. I put that to one side, otherwise all I'll want to do is go home! Oh yes, I listen to a bit of Haitian music of course, especially the rapper Wendyyy. I sometimes listen to his songs before matches, even though I mostly listen to his sermons.

How would you present your country to people who don't know Haiti?

It's a tropical country, where life is peaceful. The people are good. I advise tourists to come because there are lots of things to do, lots of places to visit: Cape Town, Labadie... The country's motto is "United we stand, divided we fall", and that represents us well. Above all, I love Haiti because it's my country!

Haiti is located on an island that it shares with the Dominican Republic. Can you tell us about the relationship between the two countries?

That's politics for you! What I can say is that relations are difficult, tense even!

What do you consider to be the main quality of Haitians and, conversely, their main flaw?

That's a tough question! I'm going to say that we're nice people but you shouldn't mess with us. If you're looking for us, you'll find us!

Who do you think is the most famous Haitian personality?

So there's the rapper Wendyyy... And then there's me... No, I'm joking (laughs)! I can name another rapper, Fantom, and in football, Donald Guerrier, who played in the Champions League with Qarabağ, Frantzdy Pierrot, Duckens Nazon... Oh, and I forgot Wyclef Jean of course!

You mentioned Frantzdy Pierrot and Duckens Nazon. Have you come across any Haitian players on French pitches?

Johny Placide! When we played Bastia last season, I took the opportunity to have a chat with him because he's our captain in the national team. We talked about the match (a 3-2 win on the final day with Johny Placide on the bench, his number 2 Zacharie Boucher having been given a start for the final match of the season). I haven't come across Frantzdy Pierrot in France because he left Guingamp when Metz went down to Ligue 2 BKT. But I see him in the national team, even though I'm sticking mostly with my mates, Leverton Pierre, Jairo Jean, Mondy Prunier, Dany Jean...

One of the best players in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, Jonathan David, is also of Haitian origin...

Oh yes, but when I played against him (LOSC won 2-0 at Saint-Symphorien last December), we didn't talk about Haiti at all!

To go back a bit in time, can you tell us about your rise to the Haitian D1?

I started at a small club and then went to a training academy for four years. I then joined Don Bosco FC in 2017. My coach in the Haiti U17 team became the club's sporting director and it was he who brought me in. I didn't hesitate because this person is like a father to me. Don Bosco is one of the biggest clubs in the country, it's well structured and on the pitch they play good ball. I joined the first team straight away and stayed for four years.

What does the Haitian championship look like?

First of all, people love football. It's the number 1 sport, the one that brings the most people to the stadiums. And so, in the championship, there are several big clubs, Don Bosco but also Violette AC, Réal du Cap, Racing club haïtien... These are teams that try to play the ball well but the majority of teams don't play like that. If they take the lead, they just throw the ball around, with players spending three or four minutes on the ground to gain time...

Turning now to the Haitian national team, how would you describe them?

We are known as the Grenadiers. The Haitian team is famous for having played in the 1974 World Cup. It's a long time ago, but it's a feat that's still talked about, as it was the country's first and only appearance at the World Cup. More recently, in 2019, the team managed to qualify for the semi-finals of the Gold Cup, beating Canada and Costa Rica among others.

Who are the greatest players in the history of the national team?

There's Emmanuel Sanon, who was the team's striker at the 1974 World Cup (where he scored the team's two goals in the tournament, against Dino Zoff's Italy and Argentina). There are plenty of other great players, but I'm only going to mention two: 'Manu' Sanon, and my favourite player, Jeff Louis (a midfielder who played for Le Mans, Nancy and Caen in the 2010s). I was lucky enough to play against him once in the Haitian league, just before I left for Metz. As for the current players, I think the two best known are Frantzdy Pierrot and Duckens Nazon. And then there's me (laughs).

What is the national team's style of play?

We play with the ball, trying to come out from the back. The national team has been playing this way for a long time, emphasising the game more than physicality or speed.

Do you have the same role with the national team as you do with FC Metz?

Yes, I play in the same position, in midfield. But in my last two games for the national team, I was a bit higher up the pitch.

What's your best memory with the national team?

My first goal with the senior team! It was last June, against Mexico. We were losing 2-0 but we pushed and pushed and I managed to score with a header from a corner (against Guillermo Ochoa, 3-1 defeat). But my most important goal was with the U17s, in the final of a World Cup qualifier against Cuba.

A few years ago, your national team-mate and former Guingamp striker Frantzdy Pierrot told us that, at the end of his playing career, he wanted to join the FBI. Do you have a project as original as his for your post-career?

No (laughs). I don't know exactly what I want to do yet, but I want to be self-employed, have my own business and be my own boss.

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