Great Britain’s Laurent Tshimanga Joins Serbian Champions The Kragujavec Wild Boars

The reigning Serbian champion, the Kragujavec Wild Boars, have signed running back Laurent Tshimanga from Great Britain for the 2017 season.

The 5′ 8″, 185 lb Tshimanga, a native of the Congo, grew up in Liverpool, England and spent the last five years playing for the Merseyside Nighthawks in Great Britain’s Premiership, the top division in the United Kingdom.

American Football International’s Igor Lazarevic asked the Wild Boars and Laurent about the signing.

Aleksandar Ristić Alf (Wild Boars HC):

“When we were considering reinforcement for the upcoming season, Laurent was brought to our attention. After reviewing the game films, we were very pleased with what we saw and agreed that he would be a great asset to our team. We are hoping that he will fit right in the team dynamics and that he will bring more speed and structure to our offense. I think that with him we will have even more variety to our game.”

American Football International: Laurent, how did you decide to come to the Wild Boars?

Laurent Tshimanga: Coming to the decision of leaving everything over in the UK and deciding to go across the world to a new country, city and culture is never easy, but being from the Congo myself, it’s not something that is new to me.

It hit me out the blue when Shane Wong got in touch with me. It’s not everyday someone goes out their way to reach out to you and speak about you in such a passionate way, his word captivated my mind and I was astounded by how much faith and belief he had already put in me, before I had even stepped off the plane and onto a field.

Wong along with Gabriel Chambers, Veljko Petrovic, Ivan Radojicic thereafter captivated my heart. Here in England, the Merseyside Nighthawks and LJMU Fury are my family, I got the same vibe from these four guys when they were recruiting me, I want to be part of something much more important than just football, I want to be part of a programme that after all the games are said and done, and we can’t run no more, I can call all these guys more than just friends, my ability to duke and dive will one day fade, but I hope our friendships never die, that’s why I’m here.

AFI: What do you expect from this season?

Tshimanga: Its early days for me to talk about what I expect from the season, but with that said, I also expect nothing less than our best. Too many times in my life, they said I was too small, I wasn’t strong enough, or I just wasn’t good enough to be part of this or that. I’ve tried several times now in my life to accomplish several goals playing American football, but most coaches just look at me and think he can’t quite pass protect, nor can he catch the ball. I’ve also been told to change to playing receiver because I just won’t quite cut it as a running back. I was born to play this position, whether I am a prototype back or not, I just got too much heart and drive within myself to allow anyone else to dictate how my life will pan out. So Serbian, American, English or whatever, we are one team with one goal, European champs, and we aren’t letting anyone tell us otherwise.

AFI: How much do you know about the Wild Boars and football in Serbia?

Tshimanga: To be honest I didn’t even know football existed in Serbia, but us American footballers residing in Europe are very used to people being shocked when we tell them we play the sport, so if the sport is being played in some isolated island in the top of the northern hemisphere, then so be it, because that’s exactly where England is.

Many of my team mates and friends are super excited for me, but before I could even come close to making this decision, a late night conversation with my father had to take place. I was nervous about it all but i got my words out and explained to him that “dad, I’m going Serbia to play American football. A moment silence passed and he replied “is it in Belgrade?” I said no, it’s a place I can’t quite say properly.

This is an exciting opportunity for me and I am determined to prove my worth once again, it will be tough leaving my home town Liverpool and my brothers at the Merseyside Nighthawks, but this “lil Hawk” needs to spread his wings further and find his way, I am sure they understand.

Playing background

Merseyside Nighthawks – 2016 (11 games, 19tds, 1179 rush yards, 17 Rushing tds, and 2 receiving tds)
Merseyside Nighthawks– 2015 (7 games, 1300+ rush yards, 21 tds)
Liverpool John Moore’s Fury-2014(8 Games, 800+ rush yards, 10 tds)
Also part of the Great Britain men’s national team, who are developing a squad to compete in the European championship in 2017.

Igor is a graphic designer, photographer, and editor. He's worked with “Svetlost”, Kragujevac's oldest newspaper, website “Ritam grada," and “Sportski žurnal”, Serbia’s leading sports journal magazine. He is a member of the American