“When I was little, we already had that determination to become the best, no matter what sport we were playing – even at school,” said Florentin Pogba. This is the outset of an interview with FIFA.com, and he is referring to his younger self and his two footballer brothers.
“We had a burning desire to win," he added. "We told ourselves that if a sport could take us places, we’d do everything we could to get there. Football opened its doors to us, and we decided to give it a real go. We knew that we had the mental, physical and technical abilities to play professionally."
The family certainly has good reason to feel proud. Paul, the youngest Pogba brother, has enjoyed a meteoric rise with Juventus and France, winning the Hyundai Best Young Player Award at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. Twin brothers Florentin and Mathias, meanwhile, have both been capped by Guinea, the country from which their parents emigrated when the siblings were young.
“Ever since I was a boy, I dreamed of playing for Guinea,” explained Florentin. “And then, when I got my chance, I didn’t get on with the coach very well. Between 2009 and 2011, I’d be called up to squads but would remain in the stands every time. During that time, I had the opportunity to play for the French U-20 team in the Toulon Tournament. As things weren’t going well with Guinea, I thought I would get some more playing time with France.”
In early 2013, the imposing Saint-Etienne centre-back definitively pledged his future to Guinea. In April 2015, Luis Fernandez’s arrival at the helm of the national side led to him properly establishing himself in the starting XI. “I’ve always been something of a leader at heart,” he said. “I’m not the oldest player on the team, but the current coach has given me the vote of confidence. He told me that I was one of the team’s driving forces, right now and for the future, and that’s why he made me captain.”
And when Mathias, who plays up front for Scottish Premiership outfit Partick Thistle, stars alongside him in the Guinean line-up, his feeling of fulfilment is complete. “The year when we went our separate ways was strange, when he joined Quimper and I signed for Sedan,” he recalled.
“We eventually got used to it and now we speak on the phone every day. We’ve played three or four official matches together for Guinea. When I know that he’s there with me, it makes me want to put in even more of an effort than usual, and I know he feels the same. Mentally speaking, it really motivates the pair of us.”
Youngest brother Paul, however, has never experienced that feeling. “We didn’t get the chance to play with Paul, because he was three years younger than us. We would have loved to, but now it can only happen in the professional game. It would be fantastic if all three of us were on the same pitch one day, no matter what match it was.
“We talk about that sometimes – it’s our dream, but we know that it’s not something that’s likely to happen any time soon. It’s something we keep in the backs of our minds. In the meantime, we’re all focused on our own career development. If we did all play in the same match one day, at the World Cup, for example, then that would make us happier than we’ve ever been.”
For that aspiration to become a reality, the Pogba twins will have to inspire the Syli Nationale to new heights, as the West Africans have not yet made it to a World Cup, although they did put in a highly creditable performance during the qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014.
“Honestly, I thought we were going to do it. Looking back, we know that we've only got ourselves to blame, making mistakes in key matches that we needed to win. But we’ve learned from our errors. If we can manage to make the best possible use of our assets, I believe that we can qualify for Russia 2018.”
For Guinea, the first step on the path to the next World Cup consists of a two-legged knockout tie with Namibia on 12 and 15 November, part of the second round of African qualifiers. A long and arduous road lies ahead before the Pogba brothers can start to seriously consider planning a family get-together on football’s biggest stage, but as their careers to date have shown, nothing is impossible.