“Knowledge of positions is a good thing.”
Attaquant polyvalent. It is the french description of the position on the pitch that Peguy Luyindula occupies. In English, it translates as versatile forward. He is a player who feels like the off-season lasts too long, that the end of the season just means waiting for the next one to begin. “I’m eager to go back to the game” is his description of how he feels now that the regular season is just a few days away. It is a game that has been with him most of his life, although not in the playing role that he occupies on the New York Red Bulls team. “The history is weird,” he says.
Sports are one of the few fields where people place confidence in a positional family lineage, and so it was with Mr. Luyindula. “I started out young as a defender. My father was a defender. They saw that I was quick. After the first year, I was a right winger.” It wasn’t until he was around 16-17 years old at the academy when he was moved to the position of forward due to of a lack of strikers on the team. The positional change paid off for his first club, Chamois Niortais, where he scored 8 goals in 26 games. The team that year finished 5th, its best position in nearly a decade.
From there it was onwards and upwards for the Kinshasa born Frenchman: RC Strasbourg, Olympique Lyonnais, Olympique de Marseille, AJ Auxerre, Levante and Paris Saint-Germain. At each club, his knowledge of not just his own position, but of having played in other spots, made a difference to him.
He compares it to a factory worker who specializes in just one aspect of producing a product. You become locked in a single mindset, unable to see the big picture. “If from beginning to end you are a striker, you are just that.”
“You cannot be sad over perception.”
On the field, watching him interact with the team, you sense a powerful bond. And yet in the stands, Peguy Luyindula is divisive in a way that is unusual for the New York Red Bulls. Some players seem to float above criticism while others spend their time in New York vilified by the fans, grudgingly praised when they do something spectacular. In New York, everyone is scrutinized but not everyone gets their name chanted, some days good and others bad, and sometimes both within the space of 90 minutes, like Peguy Luyindula.
The fans have criticized the lack of fireworks. He responds by saying “You are effective when you have to be.” It is not a shoddy answer, not a shrugged off response. Watching him work in practice last season, threading in and out of the agility poles to take a ball sent to him and put it in a sharpshooter net, you know that he is not the type of player who steps up only when he has to. Rather he has the intelligence to be there when he needs to, to optimize his abilities for the good of the team. He rejects out of hand the excuse that the fans might be to blame, that they lack an understanding of his role within the team.