Communication is key in the world of sports, and nobody on the Montreal Impact seems more equipped to do so in as many languages as Samuel Piette.
Whether it be from his defensive midfield spot in manager Rémi Garde’s 4-3-3 formation, or over the phone when one of his teammates is lost in translation, Piette answers the call.
“I was in my home and Zach Brault (-Guillard) called me and was like ‘I’m with Omar (Browne),’ ” Piette said of two Impact teammates. “He’s trying to tell me something and I can’t understand it. Could you translate for me?”
Learning Spanish came in handy for Piette, 24, the Impact’s resident diplomat.
Piette doesn’t have any goals this season, but he leads the team in languages spoken. The quadrilingual native of Repentigny can speak English, French, Spanish and German, having picked up the last two languages while playing soccer in Spain and Germany. He can also understand Italian and a little Portuguese, if it’s spoken slowly.
Piette’s native tongue is French, but he picked up English in elementary school and while also playing with anglo teammates on provincial teams growing up. He says his quadrilingualism has served him well as he’s made his way up the ranks to the national team, various clubs and Major League Soccer with the Impact.
“Learning English I knew, obviously, it’s the language where you can go anywhere and get away with speaking English and anybody would understand you,” Piette continued. “When I got to the national team that was the language I needed to speak to understand the coach, the players as well, to bond with players, to have friends on the team.”
Piette left for Germany in 2012, where he became a member of Fortuna Düsseldorf. He spent most of his time with their B team in the Regionalliga — the fourth tier of German soccer — but made two appearances with the senior team in the second division of the top-tier Bundesliga.
The team asked Piette to take German classes five hours a day for three months and it worked out. Piette was even interviewed in German. But he admits he’s forgotten some of it since leaving the country.
“When I was in Germany … I was speaking almost perfectly,” Piette said. “Then I moved to Spain, so I had to learn Spanish. There was too many languages in my head.”
Piette played three seasons in Spain with Deportivo La Coruña’s reserve team, Racing de Ferrol and Segunda Division B side CD Izarra, from 2014 to 2017. His Spanish, however, wasn’t as expansive. Piette was supposed to take Spanish classes, paying about $150 Canadian for the class. The one day he went, he was given an exam.
“It was maybe a couple months after I went to Spain,” Piette said. “I was finished with it and then the teacher said, ‘when you’re done, you can leave’. So I left. I was the first one to leave.
“To be honest, I don’t know the result of that test. I felt pretty confident, but maybe I failed I don’t know. I’ll never know.”
Instead, he learned on his own speaking with Spaniards. Piette said they were very helpful and he considers himself more comfortable in Spanish than speaking English.
“It’s easier in Spanish to make mistakes,” Piette said.
In 2017, Piette joined the Impact, a team that already featured players from diverse lands. It remains the case today, with teammates from France, Argentina and Panama. There are bound to be cliques featuring players speaking to each other in languages they’re comfortable with. Piette can converse with them all, while figuring out different dialects, and even gets in on some inside jokes.
“In Spanish, there’s some accents that are different,” Piette said. “When you speak to Omar, you know he’s from Panama, it’s very different than Maxi (Urruti), or Victor (Cabrera) or Nacho (Piatti).”
Piette has also been used as a buffer for newer players who haven’t adjusted to English or French, as is the case with the recently signed Browne.
“It’s important, Maxi is an important guy for him. Bacary (Sagna) can be as well. Samuel Piette can be,” Impact manager Garde said. “On the bench, I have some guys who speak also Spanish and I try to improve mine.”
Of course, they all come together in the unified language of soccer.
“It doesn’t matter really what language you speak,” Piette said. “You speak with the ball at your feet.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019