Big Interview: Abdoulaye Doucouré
In-form midfielder discusses being inspired by Patrick Vieira, Muhammad Ali and World Cup ’98, in his self-written interview, originally published in the matchday programme.
When I was five years old in 1998 the World Cup came to France and even though I was so young, it turned out to be something that really inspired me. The World Cup final, when we beat Brazil, is the first game I can remember watching on TV as a child and all my family were there. I can still remember the people outside in the city celebrating the victory and all the celebrations on the Champs-Élysées. All the French people were so happy and the team’s performance inspired a lot of people because we had a bright future ahead. From then on, I always watched football and I had a lot of posters in my bedroom, so it had a big impact on me.
Everyone remembers the France team that had so much success in World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000. We had amazing players like Zidane, Deschamps and Henry, but my favourite of them all was Patrick Vieira. He’s my favourite ever midfielder. I looked up to him because while I was growing up, I watched him playing for the national team and Arsenal and he was a great example for me to follow. I enjoyed watching his skills and trying to repeat them. He could do everything; he was the perfect midfielder. I think now a lot of midfielders can get forward and score goals but also defend well, but back then it wasn’t like that and he was one of the first. That’s why he’s so important and one of the best. As a player I want to have the presence and influence on games like he had. I want to become one of the best midfielders, and there is nobody better than him to follow.
Vieira is my favourite midfielder and the Brazilian Ronaldo is my favourite non-midfielder, but outside of football the person who inspires me the most is Muhammad Ali. I’ve read a lot about him and he was one of the greatest sportsmen in the world. I’ve learned a lot of things from him as well. He was a good guy with his work for humanity; he spoke about a lot of things that are important in life so that’s why I admire him so much. I saw the movie with Will Smith and it was one of the best films I’ve seen. It was so close to reality, so close to how he was in real life and how he came across in the interviews you can watch back.
I really enjoy playing alongside Étienne in midfield. At the beginning of my time at Watford it was more of a competition between the two of us because I wanted to get a place in the team, but we’ve been playing together for two or three years now and we spend a lot of time together too. We have different qualities because we are different midfielders – he can do some things I can’t, and I can do the same for him – and we learn all the time from each other. He has a lot of experience playing in England as well as back in France, so it’s impossible not to learn from him. It’s nice we also have players like Nathaniel [Chalobah] and Will [Hughes] coming in and playing well and we have a good relationship between all the midfielders, which is good for competition.