Not quite as sweet as Belgian chocolate

Half-time in Salzburg with Ignace Van der Brempt

He seems so quiet as well! If you had seen Ignace around in his first few months at the club, you could be forgiven for thinking the young Belgian is a rather tame guy. That was quite possibly just a matter of a few nerves when settling in. Indeed, one of his former team-mates in Bruges greeted his transfer by saying "I can train without shin guards again." Our defender has shown straight away in his first appearances of 2022/23 that he has a real hard edge to his play.


"I can play quite aggressively, and not just on the pitch. I am definitely a nice guy at heart, but you shouldn't overexaggerate that. I am not the kind of sweet harmless guy everyone would like. You have to play confidently and strongly on the pitch, after all. As a defender you just can't be too nice to your opponents."

Inni, as he has been called since childhood, is not only willing to rise to fierce battles on the pitch, as the struggle to start at right back is also a constant focus. At the moment, judging by league starts, the score is 2-2 between Amar Dedic and him. Our other Red Bulls won't need to pack extra shin guards for training despite that particular battle, as harmony within the squad is essential for the Belgian.

We all have a common goal that unites us.

"We don't need to train with shin guards, that was just a joke. Of course, sometime you get caught up in things - that's football. You have to work pretty hard. Above all, you have to treat one another considerately off the pitch and be a big family as a team. That we are such a young team is something really special. So many nationalities and cultures are represented in our squad who gel together into a team. That doesn't always work out, but we get it just right here. We have a common goal that unites us."


The two players in our squad that have the northernmost roots appear to have hit it off, as Ignace's best friend in the squad is Dane Maurits Kjaergaard. The two faced one another in an U21 European qualifier in March – with a draw resulting that could not have harmed the friendship.

"We mostly travel together to the Taxham training centre, as Mau doesn't have a driver's license. Facing one another in the U21 national team was really cool and somehow quite strange. We only knew each other for a short while, and so it was a funny situation to suddenly play one another - that gave us a lot to talk about."

We have a similar playing style, for sure, but are very different people.

On the subject of Danish team-mates - the shoes that the 20-year-old is trying to fill at right-back are, of course, from the Scandinavian land. Ignace soon discovered after his move to Salzburg in January 2022 that he was a candidate to succeed Rasmus Kristensen – there was a subtle hint in the way Max Wöber greeted the Belgian at his first team breakfast with "Hey, Rasmus 2.0!"

"It is completely normal that people draw comparisons when two players have the same position. We have a similar playing style, for sure, but are very different people. If I look back, I have definitely made good use of the time so far to settle in here. I have finished looking for an apartment and making myself feel at home, and now I know my way around. I can start the new season with a nice free mind. It was definitely worthwhile moving in the winter."


His favourite moment in his time as a Red Bull so far was definitely his first competitive goal for us against Fügen in the cup. He wants more in the future, even if Salzburg alone has delighted him from his first day.

"I definitely want to play a role in attack too, and the fans can expect me to contribute goals and assists. If we are being honest, there cannot be a better feeling than celebrating with the entire team after scoring a goal. The transfer in itself, and arriving here, was all just a dream come true. There will hopefully be more great moments in the near future."

The Belgian national team is definitely a topic. As an U21 international currently, he would love to play for them one day, with football being a huge part of life in his homeland. With its population of 11.5 million, Belgium is not much bigger than Austria, but has been among the favourites for every international tournament in the past decade.

"Whether you are a boy or a girl, almost every child wants to be a professional footballer there. Belgium has become a real football nation. The youth teams from Belgium perform very well and are among the best internationally. The stadiums are always well attended, and it often gets a bit heated. My family are mostly Antwerp fans, for instance."

I am living as I always dreamed, and I therefore love every moment here.

The sports-mad Ignace started his journey in football at the age of just four. At the happy family home, there was a lot of kicking the ball around with his brothers.

"We played football every day, and I joined a club at a very early age. I always loved going to training and playing, and this love has never left me. At some stage, the dream of being a professional one day became more and more of a reality. I am living as I always dreamed, and I therefore love every moment here."

Family has always played a key role for the 20-year-old. Ignace had everything he needed growing up in Mechelen in the province of Antwerp. There was never the pressure of feeling that he had to succeed as a professional. As a young boy he was allowed, however, to dedicate himself totally to football.

"Our parents always allowed us to do that. They just wanted us to be happy. If we had a bad game, they lifted us and never put us under pressure. It was always up to me to decide which route to take. Even if I had not become a pro, I would have probably ended up doing something in football. Perhaps in the media or as a physio."


As trouble-free and idyllic Ignace's childhood sounds like, he did not receive his first professional contract at Club Brugge - after signing for them from the youth ranks of KV Mechelen - for nothing. Earlier his biggest role model alongside Mesut Özil ("I just like the way he played") was Cristiano Ronaldo – not because his goals and dribbles, but also because of his unrelenting work ethic, which Inni has done his best to follow.

"When I was 15, things were not going according to plan for me in Mechelen. My performance wasn't quite right, and I wasn't getting too much playing time. That was a real test of strength. I had to pull my socks up and work hard for my dream, train a lot, and from there it went upwards pretty fast, thankfully."

Speaking four languages would be pretty cool!

Ignace has plenty of surprising elements to him. Along with having two languages at home, the Van der Brempt family keep a rather unusual set of pets

"We have chickens at home in my parents' garden. My father loves them!  When I go there, we always have fresh eggs. Earlier at school, along with maths, I foudd French fairly easy, as my parents always spoke French and Dutch with us at home. My English is always improving here, but my German is still very much a work in progress. Speaking four languages would be pretty cool!"

The weekly German lessons that Ignace and other international players have to take here should help. The defender's move here was the first time he has lived outside of Belgium, but there has been no big culture shock yet, thankfully.

"I knew that everything would be new. I got lost a few times at the start, but otherwise everything has gone wonderfully well. Essentially life here is very similar to in Belgium. Of course I still need to learn the language, and the cuisine is a bit different. It's hard to find Belgian food like fries or chocolate, but I can already order my favourite dish in German - a club sandwich with an apple juice at Afro Cafe in the city centre."


Like many of our boys, Ignace is a fan of the PlayStation. He doesn't play just to keep boredom at bay, but also in order to stay in contact with his friends from home.

"Of course I play FIFA. If I start a new career mode there, I always buy myself right away. Otherwise, I play Fortnite with my brothers and friends from Belgium, and we have a good chat. I even went on my summer holiday with my Fortnite squad, although we left the consoles at home, of course."

If it sounds like Ignace pines a bit for his homeland, that is not the case. The Belgian is already well settled in Salzburg, enjoys discovering the city and the surrounding region, and is at home with the football here too.

It was the right step at the right time, which helped me become a man.

"I am very pleased about my decision. I think it was the right step at the right time, which helped me become a man. I have already developed my football here, as the level at training is extremely high with full intensity the whole time."

We can't wait to see what the season brings for Ignace Van der Brempt and the rest of our boys, as our Red Bulls continue to develop in the months ahead. One thing is clear for Inni. In the UEFA Champions League group stage, he would love to face his former team, Club Brugge.