BEST XI: BRENDAN HINES-IKE
Brendan Hines-Ike has been in Belgium for some time playing for KV Kortrijk. Now, he's taken on your questions in the Yanks Abroad feature Best XI.
I) Who do you and your teammates consider to be your biggest rivals? Is it Mouscron, since that would be considered a derby, or another team?
- James Hammond, Harrisburg, PA
Not much of a rivalry with Mouscron. Our biggest rival is by far Zulte Waregem. There is a long history between the clubs and in my time here I have never lost to them in over 8 games; we have 6 wins and 2 ties.
II) Have you ever felt any kind of prejudice towards you for being an American?
-Raoul Duke, (location unknown)
Yes, I have absolutely. It is difficult to get into so much without getting myself in trouble, but I have felt it from coaches, players, and fans. Normally it's an initial reaction to an American joining the club and that is because there is the general notion that because he is an American, he must be a bad football player who just runs around without a clue. But after the first or second training session or game that usually goes away. Only once have I felt a never-ending lingering feeling of being judged and criticized for being American in my 6 years in Europe and that was a personal matter between me and another person at the club who I won't disclose the name.
III) Do you know or socialize with any of the other Americans playing in Belgium, such as Matt Miazga and Joe Efford?
-Sheldon O'Mara, Nashua, NH
I do not know many of the players nope. Some of them I have a small history with or have chatted with casually before or after a game but otherwise no I don't have any social interactions or hangouts with any of the American players.
IV) You were one of the best defenders in the league when you played in Sweden. How much more difficult did you find the Belgian league?
-Danny Santini, Greenville, SC
The league of course is more difficult, but that was never really my issue here. My first 4-5 months were tremendous and everything was going excellent for me at the club. I was continuing my level from Sweden and transitioning quite well. Once the coaching change came however that was extremely difficult for me and made my last 1 year and a half here at the club very very difficult. The Belgian league is faster and the players are very active here so there is never time to rest and most of the time even the central defenders are covering between 10-12 km per game just due to the constant activity. Sweden was slower and more tactical and not as frantic as it is here.
V) There has been speculation about you playing for Ireland and that you have already acquired an Irish passport. Is that still a possibility?
-Joseph Morgan, Cork, Ireland
I have been in the final stages of acquiring my citizenship from Ireland for what seems like forever now but yes I am still in that process and obviously with COVID, that caused me to lose an entire year and the Irish government paused all applications. Let's hope to finally get an answer in 2021!
VI) Do you ever see yourself coming home to play in the MLS?
-Paolo Suarez, Centennial, CO
100% do and it could happen much sooner than later!
VII) How would you rate the level of soccer in the Scandinavian countries?
-Kåre Kildevang, Copenhagen, Denmark
A very nice couple of competitions to play in. I believe especially for young players who need to gain that valuable experience it is crucial to come to Scandinavia and learn and play.
VIII) Has anyone from the U.S. national team ever got in touch with you about a possible call-up?
-Josh Fumero, Norfolk, NE
If they have, they must have the wrong number because I never got the call! So I will get my agent on that to make sure they have the right number to call next time! Haha.
IX) How do you keep yourself occupied away from soccer?
-Hunter Becker, Burnsville, MN
Besides spending my afternoons with my lovely Fiance, I love reading and learning. I took French class last season at night. I love watching courses online when I can. But I am also a very avid golfer and am absolutely in love with the sport. So on the warmer days here in Belgium (which aren't many), you can find me at the golf course working on my game.
X) Are you able to travel much to see the sights?
-Seth Bronski, Danbury, CT
Pre COVID yes of course. I have traveled to most of the countries around Europe and my favorite place I have been to so far is Nice, France. I hope we can get back to traveling soon because I still have quite a few places left on my list.
XI) KV Kortrijk is currently in the bottom half of the Pro League table but still in play-off contention. What would you consider to be a successful season for the team?
-Frank van der Pol, Ypres, Belgium
Not the best season for the club by any means. That was been due to a number of factors. A successful season for a club like Kortrijk who obviously doesn't have the biggest budget is to finish in the Top 8 of the table to have a chance for qualification in Europe. For now, however, the club will focus on every game because the bottom of the table is very tight and no one is safe so with seven games left, each one matters tremendously!
XII) Do you have any pre-game rituals?
-Juan Pardo, San Marcos, TX
Not at all. Just to be loose and feel confident and free. I feel my best when I know I put in my maximum effort throughout the week in the training sessions to know I have best prepared my mind and body for what is to come in the match ahead!