Sunday Talk: Florent Malouda talks life, Chelsea, family and Jamaica
French international Florent Malouda has suffered through a year of turmoil, yet he wears a smile. He was banished from the Chelsea first team after a row with the club's management - reportedly due to a transfer dispute.
This came just months after helping the Blues to their first Champions League title.
Born in French Guiana and discovered in France as a street baller while still a teenager, the 32-year-old went on to represent French team Lyon, North London giants Chelsea and, of course, his adopted nation France.
Through trials and triumphs, Malouda remains true to his roots and deeply connected to everything that he loves, especially family.
We caught up with the midfielder during his recent trip to Jamaica, a place he knows very well, a place he calls a "second home".
(André Lowe): OK Florent, let's start by hearing how you got involved in football in the first place.
(Florent Malouda): It was basically a family thing. My father played football, my mother played football back in French Guiana and as far as I can remember, I was playing football. My mother told me they gave me a football as my first gift and I guess I was also born gifted.
(AL): OK, well tell us some more about Florent Malouda - the man, his passion, his family, his life.
(FM): I am the happy father of four children.
(AL): Four? Well you're certainly not wasting any time.
(FM): (laughs) No, no, no ... I love kids and I love family. I have a really big family. I have three girls and one boy and three of them were born in France while the last one was born in England. So we are an international family (laughs). My son plays football and I try to encourage them to get into sports and culture as much as possible.
(AL): Do you have a preference of which team your son plays for?
(FM): He already plays for Chelsea, but anywhere I go he will play in the Academy. When I look at him I see myself when I was young, he just loves to play football. We have a hard time stopping him from kicking the ball in the house, but he is not breaking anything, so it's not a big problem. His most important toy is his football.
(AL): How old is he and is he better than you were at that age?
(FM): I hope so, I don't remember how good I was at that age, but he is really talented and loves the sport and that is what is most important. I'm not about trying to ensure that he becomes a professional footballer because you never know what can happen, but right now he loves the sport. He watches a lot of my games, so I am responsible for that part. Oh and he is seven years old.
(AL): You are an international footballer and someone that is obviously big on family. How do you balance both facets of your life or how difficult is it to do so?
(FM): That's the way I have been educated or how I grew up. I have lots of brothers and sisters and I've always lived in a house full of people, full of children and that's just how I am. I use that experience that I get in football, the place that I go and the things I see to educate my children on how the world is. It's a great opportunity to meet people and know cultures and I try to impart as much to my family. I make the most of every opportunity I get to spend with them.
(AL): I know a lot of players start out playing in other positions, when did you know that you wanted to be a midfielder?
(FM): You know, when I started playing like grassroots football, there was no position, everybody was playing everywhere, but I've always loved to score goals so I was more of an offensive player. But sometimes when you want to win or when you want to play, you end up in positions that you don't really want to be. That's what I'm all about and it has been that way in my career; I have played almost every position.
(AL): Four league titles with Lyon in French Ligue 1, a Premier League title with Chelsea, three FA Cups and a Champions League nobody can forget; well that's something that most of us will want to forget actually. How though do you compare both experiences - a massive French club in Lyon and an emerging European force in Chelsea?
(FM): I never planned to win those trophies, but from an early age I was always competitive and wanted to win though. If there was no trophy, then I did everything to win the game, but as your career and ambitions develop, the more you win things, the more you want to win. I learned to win trophies in Lyon and then signing for Chelsea was about trying to reach the ultimate goal at the club level and I managed to do that last year, so it's a process and I am always trying to step up. When I finish my career I will have no regrets.
(AL): Now speaking about that Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Germany last year, nobody gave you a chance, but put into words the emotions you felt lifting that trophy.
(FM): Since I joined the Academy in Lyon, on Wednesdays we used to watch the Champions League, so first to play in this competition and to actually win it after years and years is a great achievement. It's pure joy and happiness because you know how much work you put into it, especially with these players because as you said, nobody gave Chelsea a chance, but that was motivation for us because we knew we could do it, so it was great experiencing it with those players as well.
(AL): Now Jamaica is a bit of a second home for you, what is it that you like most about the country?
(FM): I mean, I like the culture, I like the way people are positive even when things are hard. Jamaican people are always nice and smiling despite the issues. Of course, they are well known around the world because of the culture, the tourism, music and great people. Jamaicans always welcome you wherever you go and I always wanted to come here because I like the culture.
I came here for the first time in 2007 and now I have lots of friends here and I am involved in some charity work. In fact, I will be doing two events in Trench Town and De La Vega City in Spanish Town, so I just love the people and love being here.
Even though I travel all around the world, I like to come back to my home country in French Guiana, but I also really love coming here.
(AL): If there is one thing that you have to do in Jamaica, what is that thing?
(FM): (laughs) First, I need to eat some Jamaican food to rebuild my system. Every time I am here, my friends cook me some good Jamaican food; some proper fish and we just have a good time playing dominoes. That's what it's all about, simple things - the greatest things in life.
(AL): Jamaica, of course, competed at the 1998 World Cup in France. You were still playing your football in Chateauroux in the lower French leagues back then. Do you have any memories of the Jamaican team at the 1998 World Cup?
(FM): Oh yes, no doubt. The Reggae Boyz were famous and were sort of an attraction, it was huge in France! Every time they were playing the fans would come in numbers and you could see their happiness and that's what I liked and I think that they had a good competition even though they didn't go far, but they left a good impression of the Reggae Boyz and the legacy still lives on.
(AL): A tough year for you at Chelsea this year Florent.
(FM): Football can be like that, it's a business and coming from French Guiana I have been through many things, but I always stand for my principles and I don't bow to pressure. We have been talking about my career, but if I told you I managed all of this without a manager would you believe me?
(AL): No, but I would have to take your word for it.
(FM): Well, believe me because it's true. I represent myself and that's why people try to discredit and intimidate me because they want to get a piece of the cake. This year was rough because I wasn't allowed to play football, but I am motivated. It reminded me that when you come from certain places, no matter what you have done, some people don't want you to get to the top.
(AL): What's next for you, I hear Juventus may need a left-sided midfielder.
(FM): (hahaha) I haven't talked to anyone, I am just waiting on my contract to end so that I can enjoy playing football again.
- SPORTS QUOTE
"Life is full of regrets, but it doesn't pay to look back."
- France football great Zinedine Zidane.