The view from abroad
April 4, 2020
Benrahma: “Everything is cut off”
Although his body has filled out and he has learned to cope with the physical nature of British football, the availability and personality of Saïd Benrahma remain unchanged. In excellent form with Brentford, who currently sit in fourth place in the Championship and well and truly in the running for promotion to the Premier League, the 24 year-old attacking midfielder has been in quarantine at home since 24 March. Concerned for his own health, but more so for everyone else’s safety, the Algerian international spoke to us about this crazy period on the other side of the Channel.
“As I have been following closely what has been happening in France, I had seen that the coronavirus was spreading in a crazy way. In fact, I was in Nice at the start of the outbreak, with Youcef, Hicham and Adam.
I came to say hello to everybody at the club, but even then we couldn’t shake hands with each other. Here in England, it took a bit longer, it came about a week later. To start with, on the news they were saying that they wanted 60% of the population to be infected, everyone was shocked. People didn’t really know what to do. At Brentford, we had a meeting amongst the players. Some wanted to continue to train. I didn’t because I live with my mum and I can’t afford to take the risk, I can’t lose her. At the start, training continued, then we stopped of course. From the 24 March, it’s been complete lockdown. Nobody is moving and everyone is respecting the rules to the letter. On Friday (27 March), they announced the prime minister (Boris Johnson) had been infected. At home, I am in quarantine with my best friend, and honestly, complete lockdown, despite it being necessary, is tough. Everything is cut off. Nobody goes out, not even to go to the shops. They have announced that the league won’t return before 30 April, but that can change and we don’t really know.”
“I am a homebird but I am going crazy”
“We get information as things progress. I can’t see how the league can finish, but then again, you are obliged to do so because other than that, it’s going to be really messy. As soon as things improve, even if we need to play behind closed doors, we will do it. For the time being, we are training at home. We speak with the coaching staff every day, they send us our programme and we follow it closely with real commitment. But everything is different. I am a homebird, but knowing that I can’t go out is making me crazy. And I am missing football. Normally, we are playing every three days and now we can’t, it’s strange. When you are on the pitch, it’s the best thing in the world, you forget everything else, coronavirus and what’s going on in the world.
Now, it’s the only thing you can think of. As soon as you turn on your television or you look at your phone, you see it. Even if you aren’t that worried, it starts to get into your head. At home, when someone coughs, we send them to their room (he laughs). I can’t wait for life to get back to normal. But for now, I hope that it will be okay and that everyone will be well. Take care of yourselves, sending you lots of love !"
“On the pitch, I am loving things”
In a large league (24 teams), Saïd Benrahma is one of Brentford’s main attacking threats and they currently sit in 4th place. With 34 matches under his belt this season, he has scored 10 goals and picked up 8 assists and the attacking midfielder, who came through the ranks at Le Gym*, has perfectly adapted to life at the club he joined in Summer 2018.
“Honestly, I am really enjoying myself. Matches every couple of days, the grounds are full of people, it’s brilliant. I needed a club like Brentford: they have put their full confidence in me and I am trying to pay them back as best as I possibly can. On the pitch, I am free and I am lucky, because in terms of the way we play, we are one of the best teams in the league. It helped me, we all speak the same language, that’s what helped me to adapt so quickly. English football is different to French football, you need to know how to take it (he smiles). You take hits, it becomes something you get used to, so you adapt and you take care. Last year, I was injured for a long time due to a terrible tackle from behind, where the player only picked up a yellow card. At the time, I was devastated because I was in the provisional Algeria squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, and this tackle prevented me from going. But then, that’s the way it is, that’s football. I am certain that English football has helped me to evolve even more.”
* Arriving at the Nice Academy in summer 2013 from Colomiers, Saïd took his first steps in professional football during his first season at the club (2013/2014). He played in 18 games for the first team, scoring 3 goals and 3 assists. He went on loan to Angers, GFC Ajaccio and then Châteauroux, before heading to Brentford in summer 2018.
Photos : Instagram / IconSport