From teammate to co-host: The Bridge becomes Aurélien Tchouaméni’s medium of expression

Aurélien Tchouaméni (24)  has partnered with journalist Sébastien Abdelhamid to co-host The Bridge, a talk show that they release every month on YouTube. The two hosts use the platform to gather a wide range of personalities and experts within sports, art, and business, to open an honest conversation that finds the surprising links that connect the guests. 

The Real Madrid star takes to his role like a duck to water; a perfect teammate on the pitch becomes an ideal foil to Abdelhamid on the show. There is a charm to Tchouaméni’s approach, as he puts the guests at ease and makes the conversations feel lighter without detracting from their subject. 

This works by allowing his co-host to take the larger burden of steering the conversation while Tchouaméni helps the conversations touch the slightly deeper themes. The footballer-turned-present has an acute knack for understanding when to push an answer a little further without making the guest feel under pressure. 

Aurélien Tchouaméni and Sébastien Abdelhamid: a balanced double pivot 

Tchouaméni’s interjections and questions never felt as if they were forced or out of place despite this being unfamiliar territory for the footballer, and it creates a nice tandem between the hosts that allows for the guests to feel more open than you might expect at first glance. The first episode featured the World Cup winner Thierry Henry, MMA fighter Francis Ngannou, businessman Steven Bartlett, and pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. While in the second, singer-songwriter Davido, the model Cindy Bruna, and CEO François-Henry Bennahmias were provided with a platform. 

Each guest felt comfortable delving into some of their biggest fears during their career, revealing their background and their anxieties. Henry touched on the theme of his father as a central figure in his life, someone he was desperate to make happy, while Ngannou explained how for a year he tried to cross over from Morocco to Spain, the countless attempts to cross the sea only to be caught, and the barbed wire fences he’d try and climb over for a shot at a better life. 

“It was already in my nature”

Frequently interviewed in his role as a footballer, Tchouaméni addressed how it was a natural swap for him to become the man asking the questions rather than answering them. Speaking to L’Équipe, the Real Madrid and France star explained, “I loved it! It was already in my nature to ask a lot of questions to other personalities in order to enrich my own background.” 

Tchouaméni continued, “It’s like me on the pitch: when the referee blows the whistle, it’s no longer Aurélien, it’s Tchouaméni the footballer. A year ago, I started playing the piano, it helps me concentrate, I was delighted to talk about it with Khatia. These conversations, now we want to share them.” 

The player was quick to note how this show could be somewhat of a sea change in the footballing landscape after taking inspiration from an approach led by NBA and NFL stars, that puts them at odds with the standard in Europe where there is a tendency to want a professional athlete to shy away from the media and to finish their career before taking public facing roles. “Today several active NBA or NFL players offer podcasts and shows on YouTube, but in Europe It’s just a question of mentality.” 

A platform for other voices

Tchouaméni will not be the only footballer to take a role on The Bridge with the show scheduled to star Barcelona’s Jules Koundé, AC Milan’s Mike Maignan, and Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo. A greater voice is being provided for athletes who have largely grown up in an environment that has installed strict media training from a young age, and it can only be a good thing that these footballers are getting a chance to show their personalities. 

Social media has provided the illusion of greater connectivity with star athletes. Players now have the chance to show an intimate glimpse into their daily lives, something that more traditional media struggled to provide. However, the truth is these insights are carefully manufactured and controlled to prevent embarrassing mistakes and unfortunate stories. This has contributed to a time when fans are paradoxically at their most connected and disconnected from the athletes they follow. 

Supporters aren’t stupid and they often understand that what they see on social media is often a curated image of the sports star, but it’s the closest they can get to this kind of access. It’s in this environment and audience demand that The Bridge looks to prosper. No show can truly deliver a perfect representation of a person. Still, with footballers at the front and centre of production, there is at least the sense that a player like Tchouaméni is being given a greater platform than what is usually allowed. With that, he can reveal more of his identity and provide real glimpses of his personality to shine through. 

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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