In this exclusive interview, FLF captain Laurent Jans (@janslaurent) shares a detailed insight into his current life, the beginnings of his footballing career and how an injury during a trial almost buried his dream of playing football on a professional level.
We appreciate that you took the time to answer a few questions for us. Can you give our readers a quick description of yourself?
My name is Laurent Jans, I am 26 years old and earn a living as a professional football player. At the moment I play for FC Metz in France as well as for the Luxembourgish Men’s national team. But the way from being a casual hobby player to a professional athlete wasn’t easy!
The first club I tied up my boots for was CHW- which was an association between the youth squads of Clervaux, Weiswampach and Hupperdange. This association later renamed itself to FF Norden 02 for which I played all of my youth as well as my first matches on the senior level. During this time, I earned my first call-ups for the Under 19 and Under 21 national team squads. After this beautiful time that I spent at FF Norden 02, I left “my” club and signed at Fola Esch where I played for 4 years, won the national title on two occasions (2013 and 2015) and undermined my status as first XI player in the national team.
During my stay at Fola, I went on two trials at AJ Auxerre (France) and Dundee (Scotland), where I wasn’t picked on both occasions. As I was more or less convinced to give up my dream of turning professional, Waasland-Beveren contacted me after they scouted me during an international call-up and offered me a contract! I didn’t hesitate for one second and signed the contract. After 3 fantastic years at this club, I decided to take on the challenge at FC Metz and signed a contract there.
The fact that you were here in Luxembourg during your youth career raises the question about your educational background. Can you tell us something about it?
I was born and raised here in Luxembourg and graduated from high school at the Lycée du Nord in Wiltz with the main topics being economics and commerce. After that, I started my studies at the University of Luxembourg and chose business economics as my major. I didn’t finish my studies though as I received the offer from Waasland-Beveren to become a professional footballer.
As you said before, turning pro is pretty hard and everything has to work perfectly fine. Tell us more about your way and how you experienced this transition!
To be honest, I never thought that I would become a professional footballer when I was still playing at junior level. I passed a wonderful time at my youth club FF Norden 02 where we were able to celebrate a few title wins, but I still remained calm and haven’t thought about it. This reflexion came to my mind later on when my development started to show off and when I started to raise the level of competition and the squads I played in, for example my caps in the national team. Once I was there, I started to wonder if I was able to turn these opportunities into a possible future in professional football. Also, as I said before, the trials made me wonder if I could make it on the big stage.
The trials are actually very hard and mentally challenging. You know that you are the player everyone pays attention to, that every step, every action on and off the pitch will be monitored and possibly being taken into consideration at the decision whether they keep you or not. Furthermore, the fact that I was still young, inexperienced and lacked behind in the rhythm of the professional world played a big role in the decision of Auxerre to reject me.
At Dundee FC, my second trial, things worked out better for me at the beginning. The head coach was actually convinced of my ability to be a squad member. Even though it seemed like I finally went on to be offered a professional contract, he asked me to play under match conditions as some kind of final “test”. During this match, I injured myself and suffered bruised ligaments. Two days later, I traveled back to Luxembourg without a contract as they didn’t want to sign an injured player. I was injured for a few weeks, yet the championship started a week later, so it actually made sense for them not to sign me.
After all, these trials permitted me to take a look into the professional world and to get to know the aspects of the business. Football is much more than the game itself – tie up your boots, enter the pitch and go back home after taking a shower. There are certain aspects of the football business only people working in it know about.
Can you give us your opinion on the development the national team made recently?
I think it’s safe to say that the people can see the fabulous development our national team made over the last months and years. Of course, F91 Dudelange’s qualification for the group stage of the Europa League made a few headlines in the international press, but the recent results of the national team don’t stay unnoticed either! We have more matches these days in which we actually score goals and, more importantly, score points than the other way around. We play proper football and try to be creative and to win whenever there is the slightest opportunity to do so.
With all due respect, but there has been a time where Luxembourg’s game only consisted of throwing balls into the oppositions half and trying not to lose with a higher margin than two or three goals. I certainly don’t say that the mentality of the players back then was different or that they didn’t want to win, but today I feel the difference in the motivation and the mindset of the group of players and staff. We won’t accept losing in an “unlucky” way anymore and that’s exactly what we need to improve our game and determination.
In addition to that, head coach Luc Holtz decided to give the youth the chance to show what they’re made of, just like he did with me back then! Right now, we have a very young squad that still has a lot to learn, but which eventually will find together in a perfect way which will make it very easy for us to communicate between us and to improve the synergy and the tactical understanding on the pitch.
The opinion of the football fans on the new Nations League is divided. What are your thoughts on the new competition?
I personally think that the Nations League is a good thing for the “tiny” nations, even though I understand that these matches are not as interesting as playing against the big teams. For teams like ours, it’s actually a big opportunity to qualify for the European Championship.
As we approach the end of this interview, we want to know your thoughts on your future and that of the national team. Do you have any specific plans for the time after your active career as a footballer?
For my active career right now, I hope that my body can keep up with the rhythm and that I won’t injure myself anytime in the future, because I can’t imagine a better occupation for myself right now than being a footballer. I turned my passion into my profession. Where football will take me can’t be forecasted by now, the business has its own law and it can go both ways, either up or down. I think and certainly hope that there will be a lot of memories I’ll make in the years to come.
I didn’t think about my plans after my active career as of yet, whether I’ll continue and take on a role in football or change it up and start to focus in a different area. I think the time to start thinking about these things will come very soon, and I’ll start to work on projects which have nothing to do with football at all.