François Laberge is responsible for sports at Cégep de Jonquière. Due to the severe shortage of young football players in his region, he had to recruit candidates from France. “For our team, it’s a matter of survival. »
Cégep de Jonquière is not the only school in this situation. In total, we would estimate the number of French footballers at more than a hundred in Quebec CEGEPs and universities.
According to the head coach of the Carabins of the University of Montreal, Marco Iadeluca, these young people represent an important part of Quebec football. “There are more and more French players who are talented, of university caliber,” he said in an interview.
Among the 97 active players of the Carabins team, 12 are of French origin. These include wide receiver Hassane Dosso and defensive lineman Christopher Fontenard, two alumni of Cégep de Thetford Mines.
Why are these athletes targeting Quebec? Because in France, the leagues are not affiliated with the school system. Thus, young people struggle to practice their favorite sport while going to school.
In addition, elite French players, aged 18 to 20, often play in the senior category with much older, and therefore less strong, adults, which is detrimental to their development.
This conciliation allowed Hassane Dosso, originally from the suburbs of Paris, to become one of the best players in the Canadian university network. According to the receiver who was part of the Quebec Student Sports Network (RSEQ) all-star team in 2021, accessibility to training equipment and school supervision have greatly contributed to his success. “If I had stayed in France, I don’t think I would be performing as well today! “, he admits in an interview.
As soon as he left Europe, Hassane knew that he was not only coming to study in Quebec, but also to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
For Christopher Fontenard, playing in the big leagues was not an end in itself. The 22-year-old defensive lineman struggled at school in France.
It may seem strange that a young Frenchman chooses to study at Cégep de Thetford Mines, a region far from being recognized as a tourist destination.
On the other hand, the large number of French people in the Thetford team and the isolation of the city facilitated the acclaim of Christopher Fontenard. “You feel like you’re at summer camp playing your favorite sport with your friends!” »
For Hassane Dosso, it didn’t matter where he was going to play in Quebec. “I would have been in Montreal or Thetford, it wouldn’t have changed anything for me. In my head, I was really on a mission. »
Offensive coordinator for the Carabins and former star quarterback for the team, Gabriel Cousineau played in France for two seasons after his university career.
He raises a difference in mentality between Quebec and French football. “In France, guys play for fun, not for excellence. »
With jet lag, football players in Europe do not always have the chance to watch the sport on television and thus develop their knowledge of the game.
“There are super good athletes, but football IQ among players is not very high in France,” says Gabriel Cousineau.
“When I was playing in France, the head coach was my center player while my general manager was my left guard! said Gabriel Cousineau who, when he played, combined the roles of quarterback and offensive coordinator.
According to him, the level of play suffers a lot because of the lack of supervision for the teams in France.
The recruitment of French footballers is not new; it began about ten years ago, when the Cégep de Thetford Mines was trying – in a creative way – to compensate for the weak local recruitment pool.
After a few waves of successful recruiting from CEGEP de Thetford Mines, other regional CEGEPs followed suit, such as Jonquière and Chicoutimi. Each year, these schools can field up to 20 French players in their teams.
Crossing the ocean, young players find much more than a place to indulge their passion for football; they find a new land of welcome. “I don’t intend to return to France. I really like Quebec! exclaims Hassane Dosso.
“I’m from Quebec!” adds Christopher Fontenard.