I went along to Java U on Cote-des-Nieges a couple of weeks ago to meet with the first subject for this new series, Montreal Football Folk. I met the Football Fox of Montreal, Hady Raphael.
A lengthy and passionate chat ensued around various aspects of The Beautiful Game. Ninety minutes passed quickly and would’ve gone into extra-time, but for the proprietor switching off the floodlights.
Hady is well-known to many in the Montreal soccer scene through his various musings on MLSenFolie.com, CultureSoccer.com, Renards du Soccer episodes and the CPL Premier Podcast to name just a few outlets he’s been involved with (if you haven’t already checked out his writings or podcasts, I recommend you do).
The 36 year-old arrived in Montreal 18 years ago from Lebanon, where his interest in football first blossomed.
“It was the 1990 World Cup. The war in Lebanon was not quite over, but it had eased and was about to end and my uncle said, ‘You know what, I’m going to watch tv, at last we are able to watch sports on tv.’ And he was talking about the World Cup. Of course I had no idea what it was, but I started watching the soccer with him, and I just fell in love with the game.”
The young Hady then set off on a drive to get his hands on anything soccer-related he could find. Books, magazines, programmes on tv, he had an insatiable appetite to learn more about this fascinating new interest.
He became a Marseille fan from reading the French monthly publication ONZE. Bernard Tapie’s Marseille were one of the top sides in Europe at the time, and given his sources of football information, probably the most natural club for Hady to follow. He’s been a Marseille fan ever since.
Hady retains fond memories of that side, European Champions in 1993, the only French club to reach that pinnacle, and some of the players’ names simply trip off the tongue; Chris Waddle, Rudy Voller, Basile Boli ...
But when asked for his favourite Marseille player, Hady opts for one from a less successful era for the club, Fabrizio Ravanelli, the White Feather. The Italian scored 28 goals in 64 appearances for OM as the last millennium wrapped up.
He recalls with fondness his, so far, only visit to see Marseille play in 2017. The vivid memories of youth and watching OM on tv came flooding back in a way that all true football fans, exiled from the team that occupies their heart, know, when they get the chance of a rare visit ‘home’.
“When I went there my wife was filming me, and I was overcome, I was crying. It was very, very emotional for me. I watched Marseille play a derby against Nice and we won 2-1. I was very happy. It was really something very unforgettable and I’m sure I’m going to go back again, because it’s what I want to do. And I travel a lot. My wife loved Marseille so that’s a plus for me to go back one day.”
Hady’s Marseille leanings side with a healthy interest in the Montreal Impact for whom he holds a season-ticket and covers aplenty in his various publications. But when it comes to international football, it’s Brazil all the way, with Holland as the back-up.
“Of course if Lebanon should ever qualify for a World Cup, or Canada, as we shall have in 2026, I’d be rooting for either of them as number one.”
And what if the country of his birth ever faced off with the one of his residence?
“Well in that case I’d have to pledge neutrality,” laughs Hady. “But I have a tendency to go for the team that’s weaker, so maybe I would end up supporting Lebanon.”
Hady’s father, a doctor in Beirut, had the opportunity to move to Montreal quite a few years ago, having studied here, but felt that his skills were more needed back in his homeland with all that was going on there, so he remained in Lebanon.
Despite not being a soccer fan, he is Hady’s greatest critic and supporter, reading and providing opinion and feedback on the articles his son produces. “He used to listen to all my podcasts too, but he’s told me, ‘You do about 20-a-week now, so I cannot listen to all of them’.”
Another source of great support has been Hady’s wife, Lisa. “Lisa has been very encouraging about me trying to develop a career in football media, but she won’t stay in the house when I’m watching Marseille!” claims Hady.
Our chat was a broad one, displaying the many facets of the game that Hady embraces. We went from Canadian Premier League to UEFA Financial Fair Play, to Barcelona of the 90’s, to how the European tournaments have changed with the obscene amounts of money available these days.
“It’s a bit sad,” said Hady. “PSG have a larger sponsorship deal than the rest of the Ligue 1 clubs have in combined budget. In Europe the Champions League has taken over. What’s happened to teams like Brondby and Rosenborg we used to see in the Champions League’s earlier days? They’ve disappeared! They don’t get a chance any more.”
He won’t get an argument from this writer on that. I’m at one with his sentiment.
We also talked about Hady’s idea of creating MLSenFolie.com (in conjunction with Antoine Latran and Antony de Varennes) in many ways his pathway into the world of writing and podcasting.
“I realized there were a lot of Montreal Impact sites out there in French and in English, but nothing really existed covering MLS in the French language. So MLSenFolie.com was born. The site’s still there, but I’ve moved onto other projects and teaming up with Michael Miller on CPL Premier Podcast, and working with with Mathieu Lemee and David Dicso of Cityvision on Renards du Soccer. And nowadays, CultureSoccer.com is my main focus.”
Unsurprisingly for ‘A Phoceen in Montreal’ (another podcast he does covering all things Marseille), Hady prefers to watch Ligue 1 than any of the other leagues in Europe, although he does keep abreast of the Premier League in England and of course world football in general.
If commitment, passion and knowledge are enough to propel Hady towards his aspirations, then it shouldn’t be too long before he climbs onto a higher stage.
Hopefully if I can prize him away from the four MLS games he’ll watch per week, and all the other media activities that usurp his time, we can grab another ‘not so quick’ cup of coffee. But we shouldn’t leave it too long next time. It’s been absorbing to chat in-depth football, with someone so knowledgeable and passionate about the world’s most encapsulating and inclusive sport.
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Should any of our other readers like to be featured in this series, do please get in touch. I’d be delighted to come and talk with you. You don’t have to be an Impact fan, although it helps, just a football fan that can display his or her passion for The Beautiful Game!