10 Aug 2020
Playing in the NFL, or even better, reaching the Superbowl. That’s the dream of every College athlete in the USA. But what happens to the football players who don't get this chance? One alternative is playing for American Football Leagues in Europe. Marcus Bratton left his home country America at the age of 24 for a career overseas. The difficult journey of an athlete started and since then his experiences basically changed his whole life.
What’s the special thing about traveling the globe for your job?
I wouldn’t say it’s special, I’m just addicted to different. I don’t like to settle, you know. I like for things to keep me on my toes, and the challenge. And I was just looking for a different challenge.
You played football in College. How does it normally go on afterwards?
There’s no particular path, I mean some people play professionally in the states, some play arena football and some people come to Europe. So, I was the guy that came to Europe.
Which requirements do you need to play professionally in Europe?
They will prefer College athletes, so you have to go to university. And I guess you would have to be pretty decent as a football player. They can only have a certain amount of imports per team in Europe.
Why have you been better than the other players?
I wouldn’t say I’m better, I just took my chance when I got it.
A year after College you played in France. Were you immediately sure that you wanted to keep playing outside of the US?
No, when I went to France, it was more of a preparation to play at a higher level in the States. After this, I actually went to Canada to play, which is a level under the professional league in the States.
Why did you not play in the States?
It’s a lot of politics and it’s harder to get the chance to play football in the States when you’re not coming straight out of a university. In addition, Canada just opened my eyes up to more opportunities, I would say. That’s one of the reasons why I played in Finland afterwards. When I went back to the States after Finland, I thought I was actually done with football at this time. But a friend of mine lives in Vienna now and he introduced me to a team there. So, I went to Vienna in 2017.
Why did you think that you were done with football?
I don’t know, I just felt like it was just a lot for me to keep going back and forth and keep trying to play in the states. And knowing that your time over here is not going to prepare you for professional football in the states.
So once you were in Finland, did you still plan on playing in the States professionally?
Yes, kind of. But once I got back to the States after Finland, I knew that I was done trying to play professionally in the States.
What happened after you realized that you won’t play professionally in the States?
I just had to get a job, you know, you have to survive. I was just working, I didn’t have anything planned. Every day was just something new. I didn’t put all my eggs in a basket at that time.
What changed your mind to go back to play in Europe?
At that point, it wasn’t even about football anymore. It was about brightening my experience and my travel. And also, Vienna was like one of the top 5 places of living in the world. It was more of an experience type of deal.
Was Vienna the place you liked the most?
That’s a good one. No, I would say it was France because it was the first one. And it opened my eyes to something different. Just a new way of living, a new life. And after France everything kind of made sense.
Do you like living in Europe or do you want to go back to the US one day?
Sometimes you don’t have a choice, sometimes you have to go back. But I would prefer to stay. And I wouldn’t say Europe, just not really America. I mean, I’m just tired of the American way for now. I’m just looking for something different.
So, you’re done with your home country?
I’m not the same person anymore, a lot of things are different now. I don’t see things the same anymore, so it’s hard for me to flow and move the same when I’m in the States because I’m on a different wave now, a different frequency.
Looking back at it now, would you make the same decisions?
I don’t regret anything. My plan is to better myself, so I appreciate all the opportunities and I’m very thankful.
You made it clear that you prefer living in Europe. But are there also negative aspects?
Of course, there are pros and cons. It can be good and bad, or I would say good and different.
Which difficulties and disadvantages did you have during your career working outside of the US?
Language barriers and looking different. When you look different, you get treated differently because it’s hard for people to accept that. For me, it’s still challenging to understand that people around treat you differently because of your religion or your ethnicity.
Was it hard to settle everywhere and to build new friendships?
I wouldn’t say hard to settle. I’m more of a loner anyway, I like to be by myself. All I needed was friends on the football field, I didn’t need much more. Too many friends is not always a good thing. Actually, that’s one of the things I like the most about playing in Europe: you’re not that popular, so you can become an underdog. And I like being the underdog.
But don’t you want to stay and settle somewhere one day?
No, I mean, settling is not something that I would want to do ever. I don’t like the word settle. I would just like to be where I feel comfortable but I wouldn’t call it settling. I always look for a different challenge.
What do you like most about football?
I just like the pressure. I like to be one on one with another guy, we’re going to see who’s better. You’re more on an island. There’s no one to blame but yourself. I like for the team to rely on me to do my job.
Is it a dangerous sport?
This sport isn’t about hurting people, it’s just about being more agile. It’s just how you prep yourself and that you’re capable of playing at a high level without bringing harm to someone.
When did you achieve your personal best performance in your career?
I don’t really have a best moment of me playing or anything. All my moments are pretty dope. The best part is being able to teach my little brother. Seeing my brother and my little cousins at my games and motivate them to play and be just as good as me – that’s the best feeling.
Which advice would you give trainees for the start of their career?
Believe in your abilities. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if you believe you can, you will. Confidence is key.
One last question: Is football really your favorite sport?
No, I would say it’s basketball. (laughs)