Bedoya: Nante's American hero
Nantes midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is doing his utmost to fly his country's flag with pride in Ligue 1, and the USA international has found a new home in the hearts of Les Canaris' loyal fans.
When we last met up with Alejandro Bedoya he was still getting to know the city of Nantes. 16 months on and the midfielder has settled, a long way from his hometown in Miami.
Right at home
"I've been in Europe now five years so I'm kind of used to this," the affable Bedoya told The Ligue 1 Show on BeIN Sports. "Rain, cold, but no it's a nice little city Nantes, I like it. Obviously there's all these little cities and towns around and I don't really know my way around them, but central Nantes? Yeah, I know my way."
Still a proud American at heart, it's not difficult to find a place where he can feel at home and eat a decent burger. Bedoya has learnt his lesson from last year, though, after finding the rare steak he was served heavy going...
"It came out was really bloody, you know really red," he recounted. "And I'm not used to that so I had to - it's kind of embarrassing - but I had to ask if they could please cook it really well done."
Born in New Jersey before heading south to Miami, the son of a Colombian professional footballer started playing as a kid. Playing in the high school and college teams, Bedoya fell in love with the game and set his sights on Europe.
"Highschool sports in the states is all about the spirit," he explained. "You're proud to play for your school and representing that school to beat other teams. I always thought it was just fun! You'd score some goals and you'd come to school the next day and everyone would be like 'hey whatsup!' and you're in the local papers. It was cool!"
From local papers to international stardom, Bedoya played a key role in the USA's 2014 World Cup campaign. Jurgen Klinsmann's men performed well, only narrowly losing to Belgium in the last 16.
"For me one of the most special feelings was the first game in the World Cup walking out against Ghana," said the 37-times capped (two goals) USA midfielder. "You don't really get it at first. You know it's the World Cup but you don't really see or feel how big it is until you're actually there. Then when the national anthem comes on, it's very emotional, you know? You feel like you're representing every American. So far that's been the best moment of my career."
Last year was a busy one for Bedoya, who scored five goals as Nantes finished 13th. But his footballing talent wasn't the only thing he brought across the pond: challenged by his teammates to sing after scoring his first goal, he performed a rounding rendition of a US fan anthem that would later become Nantes' victory chant.
"Me being a reserved kind of guy, I was like 'no I don't want to do it, you guys do it'," Bedoya recalled. "But they kept egging me on so I just did it and the players loved it, the players liked it!"
It wasn't just the players; the fans loved it too. A long-time admirer of Argentine football, Bedoya likens the atmosphere at Nantes's Stade de la Beaujoire to those of the stadia in South America.
"I still get goosebumps hearing the fans sing my name," he admitted. "Last year in the last home game they had me go up and chant that to the fans and you just hear the echo around the stadium of all those fans chanting - not my chant but the one I started - it's an incredible feeling, it's cool."
"I always say the similarity between the Tribune Noir and the Argentinean boys were, somebody scores a goal and that whole stand of people just run down and stampede on each other. To see that passion from the fans, it's awesome. It's not easy to score a goal so when you do you want to release that tension and the fans do the same thing and you're at one with them, you know."
What a difference...
Bedoya's post-World Cup experience was something of a let-down. The attacking midfielder was frequently left on the bench as Nantes enjoyed a fine start to the current campaign, but his fortunes have changed since his stunning goal away to Paris Saint-Germain.
"The reality is I haven't had that much of a break so you feel tired here and there. It is how it is, we're not robots," he said. "But after that goal against PSG - I hadn't been playing that much, before I'd been playing more as a sub - things turned. It's amazing what a goal can do for someone's confidence, right?"
'Stay a few more years'
The only American in Ligue 1, Nantes' Lone Ranger is settled in France, but his journey is by no means over.
"Once I go back home I know I'll never come back to Europe," he said before reassuring the Nantes faithful that his time in the north-west of France has plenty of legs left. "I like it here, I enjoy it and I plan to stay here for a few more years before I go back."