Dynamo defender Andrew Hainault took some time to answer a few questions from HoustonDynamo.com about life, on and off the field.
HD: As a kid growing up in Canada, where do young soccer players aspire to play?
AH: Montreal is a very multicultural city, so there are kids from all over. There are a lot of Arabs, Italians, Greeks, so they all know about the leagues in Europe and they always aspire to play there, whether in Seria A or La Liga or the English Premier League. We also have the Montreal Impact. People take it for granted back home, but then you get to 18 or 19 and you train with them, you realize this level is not bad. I never really aspired to play for the Impact, but I played with them and it was great. You always aspire to play for the biggest and the biggest and best are in Europe.
HD: Who was the team you supported growing up?
AH: I try to move away from it, but we always liked Manchester United because they were the team they always showed on TV. I remember the 1999 Champions League with David Beckham, because he was the big star and the big name. It was always Manchester United, but of late, I’ve been to a couple Manchester United games, and I wasn’t too impressed with the fans. I like Liverpool. I also like a couple teams in France, but Manchester United was definitely my team growing up.
HD: You spent a couple years playing in the Czech Republic. From a non-soccer standpoint, what was it like living there?
AH: It was great. I loved the people there. They are real humble, hard-working, and down to earth. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It didn’t get heavily damaged during the split with Slovakia. They have buildings that are hundreds of years old. I just loved living there.
HD: Did you have the opportunity to do much traveling while there?
AH: We did. We went to Germany a couple times, Munich and Berlin. Besides that we never got weekends off, and when it was, it was last-minute. For soccer we went over to England and Frankfurt. It’s so great because everything is a train ride away or a short flight away.
HD: You grew up in Canada and then played over in the Czech Republic before moving to Houston, so what was the transition like coming here?
AH: When I first got here, the weather was beautiful, I think I got here mid-February. Then it started getting hotter and hotter and hotter, so that was one of the big things to transition to. Life is very similar in Canada and the U.S. It was great being able to come home and be able to speak the language right away. You take for granted the little things, like being in a restaurant and ordering food or just being able to talk to someone on the street; make conversation and be friendly. I didn’t have that in the Czech Republic, so that was great. But the transition wasn’t tough. It’s very similar from Canada to the U.S. People think we [Canadians] live in igloos and we don’t have electricity, but we are pretty advanced.
HD: Aside from your newfound scoring prowess on the field, you are known as one of the team chefs. Where does this love of food and cooking come from?
AH: Well I moved over to the Czech Republic when I was 19 years old, and I was all alone. I couldn’t really go out to the restaurants and ask for what I wanted, so I had to learn how to cook. I made a lot of mistakes; I ate some raw chicken, I ate all sorts of stuff. It’s all about trial and error, and I learned. I have always loved food, so when you start cooking, you realize you can make better stuff than if you go to these restaurants. So it started there. Then my girlfriend, now my fiancée, moved over, and she is very similar, so it just grew from there, and now I’m a top chef.
HD: Who is a better chef, you or your fiancée?
AH: Definitely me. [Laughs] Honestly, she is a lucky girl, because I come home and I cook every meal right now, which is not very fair. But I’m so controlling, and she puts too much spice, and I’m always looking over her shoulder, and she gets flustered in the kitchen. So I’m definitely the head chef, and she is my sous-chef.
HD: The last time Canada made the World Cup was 1986. What do you think Canadian soccer needs to do to reach that level again?
AH: A lot of people want to know the answer to that one. It’s frustrating, because we will put a squad together, and you see the list of players on the squad, and the clubs they are playing at, and you can compare us to most teams in CONCACAF minus the U.S. and Mexico. We’ve got some of the bigger-name players, but it seems as if collectively when we come together, we can’t put it together. I wish I knew the answer. We just need to keep working hard, figure out the problems, and hopefully learn from mistakes we’ve made in the past. I think if we can get on a good run and make a push in World Cup qualifying and even make the World Cup, then things could really turn with the [Canadian Soccer Association]. It could go real fast, because I think we have the talent and players, and we just need to be able to put it together.
HD: Back in May, you were fortunate to represent your country in an international friendly and went up against Lionel Messi and Argentina. What was it like playing against a team with so many world-class players?
AH: Honestly it was another level to what I have ever played against. I have seen some good level of play before, but it was just something else. Everything was just so much quicker. It was a good experience, and hopefully I learned a lot from it and won’t make the same mistakes I did playing against them the first time.