‘Remind me again why we’re going there’
‘Like I said, the old man has always travelled, and lives vicariously through me’
‘I know that, it’s hard to watch him sometimes the way is he with you. Anyway, where’s he from again?’
‘Paris, you know that! He’s always wanted to go back, well he’s always wanted me to relive his youth and his career’
‘Paris, as in France?’
‘So why are we.…’ the slightly older man was cut off by his friend
‘In Singapore? Because no team in Paris, or France for that matter would have me, us, I mean’
‘What about closer to home, there’s a bunch of teams in Canada like…’ Again he was cut off by the younger man
‘Impossible. The only teams we could go to are MLS teams, and none of those are going to be looking at us for a long time’
‘The Canadian lower leagues? What about the college game, you’ll easily be able to go back there?’
‘It’s all to do with the playable teams my friend’
‘It doesn’t matter, look, with my experience and coaching badges, no team in America, Brazil, or near Quebec would even look at me. I’ve been through this with you, my dad still has contacts in the game, and I’ve managed to get the gig here’
‘It’s a good job we’re friends’
‘Of course. If not I’d have to find another washed up player to be my assistant wouldn’t I’ the younger of the 2 said with a wry smile.
The younger man is Stephen Labéque, a native of Quebec, Canada with a French father and American mother.
The older man is former MLS player Rob Friend. The 2 have been friends a few years and met on a coaching course in Montreal. They hit it off with Rob retiring from playing and pursuing a career as an assistant manager, and as luck would have it Stephen was trying to follow in his fathers footsteps as a manager.
Stephen senior played football in The States, Spain, and Portugal before finally retiring after a couple of years in Qatar. His playing career would be best described as so-so. The highest league he played in was the Qatar Stars League, the top division there. He moved back to Paris and into coaching with Red Star FC. After a few years he moved into management, with the head coach job at Kitchee SC in Hong Kong, as well as the top job at teams in Malaysia (with Sime Darby FC), Saudi Arabia under 23’s and Israel (at Hapoel Afula) before moving back to the States and becoming a youth team coach for the Red Bulls in New York, where he currently works.
The plane finally touches down and before long they’re both travelling in a taxi, a yellow Sedan, travelling to a place called Hougang in Singapore, where their new employers are based. It’s night time and they can feel the buildings, garages and people piercing with their neon stares. The indicators start flashing and the car slows down to a halt outside a football stadium. The aptly named Hougang Stadium.
Next chapter – From Quebec to The World – Continued