• Laurent Ciman moved to Montreal for his daughter, who has autism
  • The Belgian was voted MLS’s best defender in his first season in Canada 
  • Ciman a regular squad member during Belgium's Russia 2018 campaign

“Fortune is fate’s favourite disguise,” wrote the French playwright Sacha Guitry, a quote that Belgium defender Laurent Ciman can perhaps relate to now that his international career has taken on a whole new dimension since he chose to play his club football in Canada. No one is more surprised about the reversal in his fortunes than Ciman himself, not least because he was thinking of giving up the game on crossing the Atlantic. 

Doing it for his daughter
Putting his family before money, glory and silverware, Ciman, who hails from Farciennes, near Charleroi, knows where his priorities lie. “My daughter is autistic and Canada seemed like the perfect place for us to manage it,” said the player, in conversation with FIFA.com. “My wife was planning for us to move there after my career, but when I found out there was an MLS club in Montreal I did all I could to sort out a transfer there. I had to do it for my family. My wife and my family had already made plenty of sacrifices for me, and now it was my turn.”

Emotional times
“When I called my wife to tell her, she broke down in tears,” added the former Standard Liege player, who was charting unknown territory in Quebec, but with the belief that he was doing the right thing. “It took me a bit of time but I eventually got my bearings and started to feel at home. I was pleasantly surprised by the standard at the club and it’s very much on the up.” Ten months later, the man that Impact fans like to call 'The General' has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the MLS scene, so much so that he was named the league’s defender of the year in his first season. “MLS is getting bigger every year and I’m growing with it,” he said.

Giving something back
Ciman proved an instant hit in Canada, with Impact fans falling for the Belgian – who is as endearing off the pitch as he is commanding on it – and his team-mates quickly growing used to his booming voice. “I’ve always had a big mouth. It’s an instinctive thing for me and I just want to bring a bit of Europe to MLS,” he said. “I take pleasure from seeing the league progressing on a tactical and technical level.” The defender is anxious to give something back, as he has always done: “I want to give as much as I can to the club in MLS and be a good ambassador when I go back to Belgium to play with all the stars in the national team.”

Going for it
Ciman’s career path was subject of surprise and then fascination in Belgium. Though a highly-respected player, he was nevertheless seen as a faithful servant who could consider himself fortunate just to be training with Les Diables Rouges. “I’ve always given 200 per cent in every training session because I had to up my level so I could keep pace, though it was pretty frustrating at times,” said Ciman, who was an unused substitute at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. “I’d have been happy with a few minutes but I didn’t get the chance to play. There came a time when I just wanted to explode, but luckily my wife calmed me down on the phone.”

New horizons
Belgium are well placed in Group H of the European qualifiers for Russia 2018, an objective that Ciman also has his sights set on: “My status has grown since I moved to the Montreal Impact,” said the defender, who scored his first goal for his country in a 3-2 win over Norway in the lead-up to UEFA EURO 2016, a tournament that he began in the starting XI. On the point of turning 32 and having put his family before his career, Ciman is now hoping for a starring role on the biggest stage of all in Russia next year.

"The key to success can be found in perseverance and love."
Message in graphic: It doesn't matter if a child learns slowly, we need to encourage him or her to never stop