Castello Junior Lukeba
What inspired you to start playing football and at what age did you first begin playing?
I started playing football when I was five or six years old. I was inspired by my brothers. We used to play football outside in the neighbourhood, watch football on TV and play video games. Thanks to my brothers, I was brought up in that atmosphere.
Who were your biggest footballing influences as a young player?
I don’t know why, but my first idol was Michael Ballack. I guess that’s weird for a French kid but I bought Bayern Munich and Chelsea jerseys with his name on the back. When I was growing up I had a new idol, Carlos Puyol. I really appreciated his state of mind, leadership, and the fact he always left everything on the pitch.
What was your experience like coming through the youth ranks at Lyon, and how did it prepare you for your professional career?
Coming through the youth ranks here at Lyon has been a blessing. I learned so many things that still benefit me now, first of all, my work ethic. I used to play with players that were as good or better than me, so I learned that talent means nothing without hard work. I had to face competition, work hard, and be disciplined each and every day to stay in the starting lineup. I also learned what a player has to do off the pitch to improve. Things like injury prevention before the training sessions, because athletes need to know their bodies. One of our youth coaches, Amaury Barlet, made us play futsal which also helped me a lot.
How did you feel when you made your professional debut and what was the experience like?
I felt happy, it was an important step. But the further you go, the more ambitious you become so I wanted even more. I reached the goal of playing my first game and becoming a starter, but I still have ambitions to go even higher and further in my career.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your career, and how did you overcome it?
I have faced two challenges so far. The first one was when I started playing with the first team but then the coach decided to move me to the reserve team. Obviously, you want to stay with the first team so it can be painful. That’s why you have to show that you are mentally strong and that you can work even harder. And the other challenge was the second year with the first team. During the first year, I had less pressure, but now people expect more from me, and the bar is much higher. But once again, you can overcome it through hard work, reinforcing strengths, and training weak points.
What has been your favourite moment or game in your career so far, and why?
There are a lot of good moments. Firstly, I would say our 3-0 win at Marseille when I scored. Of course, there is also my first game in the French league, my first professional goal, and our qualification for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europe League. At this stage, it’s a lot of smaller moments because I have not yet won any titles.
How have you adapted to the first team football and what has your experience been like so far with Lyon?
I am blessed because some of my teammates followed the same path from the youth ranks to the first team. For example, Maxence Caqueret took me under his wing and gave me some advice to adapt to the new environment. My family helped me a lot too. Even when I signed a professional contract, they remained the same. I’m still the baby of the family, so they are honest with me, they won’t always say what I want to hear.
What do you think your greatest strengths as a footballer are, and how do you work to improve them?
My greatest strengths are my passing accuracy, anticipation, one-on-one duels, and my ability to run with the ball. I work on it during every training session and I also try to improve my weak foot. Our coach, Laurent Blanc, wants us to play out from the back so we always work on it. I also watch my games back when I get home to see what I have done well or not so well.
How would you describe your playing style and what sets you apart from other strikers?
We have followers and some footballers are even idolised. The athlete’s voice matters, our voice can make an impact. It’s important to convey the right message, to be exemplary. The cause I’m passionate about is fighting racism. I think it’s time to build a world beyond racism and discrimination. We can also use social media to raise awareness about various causes and push for change.
How do you balance your footballing commitments with your personal life, and what do you like to do in your free time?
Football has always been a major part of my life. I dedicate all my time to football. Let it not be said that we do nothing once we’re off the pitch. You must pay attention to your body, and to how you eat. You can’t go out whenever you want, everything you do depends on your training sessions, games, and your schedule. You need to relax, spend time with your family and friends, play video games, board games, simple things… This restores mental energy.
How would you describe your personal sense of style, and what is your go-to outfit?
My style depends on where I’m going and at what time. For example, if I’m too lazy in the morning I will wear a tracksuit and sweater. If I have a training session in the afternoon and I have to go in a hurry, I will wear jeans. But my go to outfit, the one I wear for a date or to go to a restaurant, would be cargo pants, Dior B22 sneakers, and a t-shirt with a jacket or long sleeve sweater.
What kind of impact do you hope to make in the fashion industry, and what future projects or collaborations do you have in the works?
I love to collaborate with brands, I don’t close the door to anyone. I know that some people will say that I should only focus on football, but I think I can do both. If I can be a global athlete, making an impact on the pitch and in fashion, then why not? Football is my priority, but if NBA players can combine basketball and fashion, then I’m sure I can do the same.
Finally, what advice would you give to young footballers looking to follow in your footsteps and make it as a professional player?
You can’t achieve anything without hard work. Your success will be determined by your own confidence. It doesn’t matter if people don’t trust you, you know you can do it!