Julien Denoël presents his book Expat Football Club, about Belgian football travelers – Tout le foot

Julien Denoël presents his book Expat Football Club, about Belgian football travelers – Tout le foot

Belgian football is proudly represented at all major European championships and has established itself among the best clubs in the world. But lower down, out of sight, some opt for the shadows and exile to continue their careers.

As the 2022 FIFA World Cup draws to a close this Sunday, everyone’s mind is on the glitz and glamor of the world’s summits, the absolute stars. Being a footballer would be the ultimate dream, absolute glamour, and Belgium cannot satisfy that: Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard – our Devils shine in the biggest clubs. But football is not only that – quite the opposite. And if the Belgian footballer is well exported to the top, he is also a hardened globetrotter: there are Belgians everywhere, even where you least expect it. Exactly to those football travelers Julien Denoelfreelance journalist who passed through La Meuse but also…Walfoot, pays tribute in his first book “Expat Football Club”.

“I have always been interested in Belgians who play in lower leagues or in unlikely divisions like the English D6. On the page soccer trackyou can easily search by nationality,” explains Julien when we ask him how this book was born. “The trigger was hearing about Jasper Van der Heyden, who played in the Faroe Islands. After searching, we realize that there are quite a few of them, Belgians who play in those obscure championships.

From the Faroe Islands to Kenya via Gibraltar

However, the author sets some barriers: a little originality, exoticism is needed. “I focused on countries quite far down the UEFA rankings (above 15th place) or outside Europe. And only one player per country,” he explains. “That complicated things for me. For the right back I had to get an Andorran whose mother is Belgian; strictly speaking, he does not have Belgian citizenship”. Moses San Nicolas Schellens, it’s about him, he’s developing in Andorra and if he were to play in Belgium, he’d like to wear the colors of… Westerloa.

“Expat Football Club” is full of such “small” stories. One of our favorites: Dylan De Bruycker, passed the teams of Bruges and Zulte Waregem and went to…the Philippines, the country of his mother. He will become … an international, along with two other Belgian-Filipinos. And the format chosen by Julien leaves the word to his players: everything is done in the first person, each interlocutor tells his own story. “What’s important to me is a person, not an athlete, even if some talk about it. Their experiences in unusual stadiums, unknown cultures. It’s a way to explain that football also offers life and travel opportunities to slightly less talented players.”

Maxime Lestienne, regret

The red thread of this book is often that desire to escape that drives the speakers… but not only: some may evolve in Azerbaijan, the Faroe Islands or Gibraltar, but they have not given up their dreams of glory. In football more than anywhere else, everyone has their own path to the top. All these wonderful people train Patrick Aussems, coach of AFC Leopards, passed through many African countries and… selection of Nepal. We also had the opportunity to interview this 57-year-old from Liège who is living a crazy experience on the African continent.

Only one regret for Julien: “There is only one name I would like to have: Maxime Lestienne, who is a hit in Singapore, which is crazy. His club turned him down,” reveals the young author who does not despair. ..for the eventual second part. “I don’t think about it yet, but I have enough to make a new eleven without any common country. At first I dreamed of writing a novel. I also had a photo book project about abandoned stadiums in Belgium, but it was a bit complicated”. Through the publishing house Memory, therefore publishes this first work ideal for fans of football and life stories. A great idea if you don’t have Christmas presents yet!

Expat Football Club, Julien Denoel; Edition memory, 208 pages. Available at Fnac, at Club or at

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