Our latest exclusive features Luxembourg and New York City defender, Maxime Chanot! Read about his amazing faith story and the influence of Patrick Vieira.
Maxime, where does your love of football come from?
Let me think, so I was born in France and grew up with half my family coming from France and half from Luxembourg. The first thing that I remember about football was the World Cup 98 when France won, it was funny because one of the players who was part of this team is now my coach. This is where my love of football came from.
Growing up in France, was it the only sport the number one for you?
To be honest, my first passion was boxing and I used to practice it. So football was not first but in the end football is an easier sport to play, outside your school, outside your home, you just need a ball and then you can play in a park with your friends. I loved boxing but now football is number one for me.
You had a serious spell in your younger years over in England, during that time did you learn a lot about yourself?
Yes, I always used to say that being in England was the hardest time of my life because I came over at seventeen and didn’t speak one word of English. So when you are only young and you cannot understand, the experience made me the man that I am now, it was a really good experience because I got the chance to sign my first pro contract with Sheffield United. For me, it was an achievement, I had worked so hard in the academy and so to have the chance to sign a pro contract was so good.
At the same time it was hard, I was a kid and I was in a new country, the first year was tough but it made me grow up really quickly. I am really thankful to God for giving me a chance to experience England.
You’ve played for a lot of sides, from all over the globe, how exciting has that been?
I have had the chance to play in England, France, Belgium and now in the USA. I get the chance to travel a lot with my national team, Luxembourg so I learn a lot about culture, I think it is important and I am really thankful for how I am living, not just in terms of football, but as a man.
Getting your break with New York City, was it an easy decision to go?
I didn’t think too much, when I knew that New York City were interested, I had options, a deal from England, from Poland to play Champions League, a deal from Italy during the summer window. I made the choice to sign with New York because I got to play with players like Frank Lampard, David Villa and also to work with Patrick Vieira who used to be one of my idols when I was younger. To be a part of this beautiful project was important for me so I did not think too much. I just said yes and I pushed a lot to make the transfer, I am really happy with my choice.
How good has it been to work with Patrick Vieira?
When you work with someone like Patrick Vieira who had such a good career you have to know that this guy is going to teach you a lot and show his experience. That’s exactly what’s happened, he loves to share and give advice, to work with his players, so as a player it’s very good to have a coach like him. I have learnt so much from him.
Where does playing for Luxembourg rank in your career highs?
Yes, to get the chance to play for your country, to hear the national anthem in front of your family, I am really happy and proud. This is a big thing and I am really happy to be a part of my national team, I am expecting us to do something good in the next few years.
Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?
This is really important for me because God is number one in my life, everybody has a mission from God, mine is to try to share what God has done for me, and he has done so much for me. Hopefully young people can read this paper and say, listen if God has done all of this for Maxime Chanot what can he do for me?
My story with God is recent, I grew up in a Catholic family but we didn’t really practice it. I lost my dad when I was young and as a young guy I lost my faith. This is my biggest regret, I got a chance to meet my wife when I was sixteen and it was strange, I was thinking so much about football and not God. I had a hard time in England and then back in France afterwards.
I had a really bad injury when I was nineteen or twenty and couldn’t even walk, the doctors didn’t know what to do. I was in hospital in about 2009 after I broke my foot in France, I spent five months in hospital and for me football was finished. My head was gone.
I was lost in football and almost stopped, almost gave it up. I will tell you this and nobody has heard this story apart from my wife. One day and this is no joke, someone came into my room at about 2am in the morning, believe me, and he brought a bible to the side of my bed and then went away. He thought I was sleeping because it was really late, and he didn’t even talk to me. I said to myself that maybe I will start reading this bible and so I read a little bit the first day and a bit more the second day. Now you can believe this or you can not, but three weeks later I could walk, a month later I could run and two months later I was playing football again.
My wife asked me to come to church with her and since that date I have come back close to God, I started to read the bible, go to church and my football career has gone upwards.
This is a great, great, great experience for me because I lost my faith and football was going so badly, someone came into my room and I saw him only once. I have never seen him since, and two months later I could play football. One year later I was in my national team, playing against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, one year later. God is great. This is why I want to share this with people, because when you are on God’s side, anything is possible. The hand of God is so powerful and I am living for God now. I am playing football to share with people how God is great.
How tough is it, as a Christian in elite football? What’s the reality of it?
As a football player but also as a regular person, it is always hard. One day I met someone who said that your faith is like a rollercoaster, one day you are up and the next you are down. Whatever happens I cannot forget what God has done for me, regardless of money or the media, God is first and the rest is second.
Is there a network of Christian pro Soccer players that you are aware of, guys you can lean on?
Yes, I know Aurelien Collin, I got a chance to meet him in Arizona during the Diamond Cup, we expect to have a dinner with a pastor who is coming to Red Bulls and New York City, so we manage to meet all together and speak. It was great to share experiences and there are some players in the club as well, every Wednesday we pray all together which makes our faith stronger.
How much of your ability is from God compared with your own hard work?
That’s a really good question, my wife and I have got two words in life that we use, they are ‘our faith’ and ‘hard work’. You have to work hard and when you do God gives you the achievement. I would day 70% from God and 30% hard work, so that he is on top, without God you cannot achieve anything and so that is the perfect mix.
Is there a part of the bible that you particularly like?
I love to read about the life of Jesus because he tried to show us the way that we should live.