Leo Folla is an American professional soccer player currently playing for the Chattanooga Red Wolves of USL League One. He played college soccer at Western Iowa Community College, University of Albany, and lastly St. Francis- Brooklyn. Folla played in the PDL (now USL League 2) for F.A. Euro, and also played overseas for Harnosands FF, in Sweden, before coming back to the states to sing with the Red Wolves. Folla, 24, has an exiting future ahead of him, and is a player to keep your eye on!
The Leo Folla Interview
2. What was it like to transfer from Iowa Western Community College to University of Albany?
I had actually spent a very brief time at Iowa Western Community College, my time there was good and I learned a lot in the short time I was there but I had some issues at home which ultimately ended up in me transferring over to University of Albany which was a four-year program in division 1 NCAA so it was definitely a different change of pace and a different level.
3. Biggest tips for college players reading?
I think for college players it's very difficult because the season is so short and the chance to improve throughout throughout the season is very little due to the strict rules and then an amount of rest time you have in between the games being so little however I do think that ultimately you have to be able to sacrifice some things whether it's free time or social time to focus on what you really want to go after and if it's whether you want to become a professional soccer player after college or you rather just go about you know playing college soccer and getting your degree which is perfectly fine there's nothing wrong with either of those decisions but there will be sacrifices you have to make if you want to reach the former.
4. You then transferred to St. Francis College Brooklyn, how was your time there?
I transferred over to St Francis college Brooklyn after one season University at Albany. I enjoyed my time at Albany and the program had become successful but I felt I wanted to be closer to family and stay at home and focus on soccer and my studies which is what I was able to do by staying at home. I had a really successful college career at St. Francis college Brooklyn, in the 3 years I was there we won our conference twice and we made the National tournament twice and I believe that I definitely grew as a player and as a person at St. Francis college Brooklyn and it definitely made me tougher so it was a good experience overall.
5. After college, what was it like trying to find a pro contract?
After college it was certainly not what I expected in order to find a professional contract I had spent the year just going everywhere around the world really to to find a contract. At first I went to Sweden and spent some time there then I left and went to Italy and Germany which didn't work out over there as well and ultimately I came back to New York and I had been a long time without anything promising and I didn't know what to do and I just kept sticking with it I persevered and try to keep as many doors open as possible and then Chattanooga came my way which I was really grateful for to help me get my foot through the door. But overall it took me about a year after college to land a professional contract. And it was a lot harder than I imagined.
6. You played for Härnösands FF until VISA issues, how were you feeling after you were told you had to leave?
It was difficult leaving Sweden but it was a decision I definitely had a hand in as well on the situation there wasn't as I had expected and I didn't have my my 90 days in Europe or we're ending soon so I decided not to pursue a longer stay where I was at and Sweden and I think it worked out for the best I think was a good decision for me personally for my career but I definitely learned a lot and became a lot tougher and stronger in a foreign country with in a completely different environment which I wasn't used to have never been around.
7. How has your time been with Chattanooga so far?
My time in Chattanooga has been great, it's certainly a different city that I'm used to so it's been a lot of a learning curve. In terms of soccer it's been great playing with a lot of more experienced guys on my team, guys who have played all over the world in a different levels so it's great to learn from them everyday and training and all.
8. From 2016-2018, you played for FA Euro in the PDL (now USL League 2) what was playing for them like? Would you suggest players to play in the USL League 2?
Playing with Fa Euro was great, I had three wonderful seasons there, perhaps the seasons were not as successful as we would have liked but when you come off tough Seasons you always learn a lot more and I think as a player and as a person I learned a lot playing with fa Euro. I would recommend USL league 2 to any college player or player is looking to get a lot of games and at a very decent level with players from all over the country who are in college and what not trying to take their game to the next level. A lot of professional teams have partnerships or reserve teams or under-23 teams directly in the USL league2 so I think it's a great stepping stone.
9. Coolest city you’ve played in?
Coolest City ever played outside of New York would have to be LA. New York has always been my home and to me will always be the greatest city in the world but outside of New York I have to say LA. When I was younger I didn't get to see much but I remember going there for about a week for a showcase tournament when I was 18.
10. Best player ever and why?
For me the best player ever will have to be Lionel Messi I think you can always compare players in different generations but I wasn't around for Pele and Maradona generation and for me I grew up watching Messi and what he has done over the past 10 years, him and Ronaldo both, but I think Messi is just on a different level the things he does words can't describe.
11. Go to snack?
Go to snack is probably fruit or a protein bar. Ice cream when I want to cheat.
12. One country or city you want to visit?
I always wanted to visit Japan since I'm half Japanese.
13. Favorite team and player growing up?
My favorite team growing up was AC Milán no one can forget the legendary teams they had. My favorite player growing up was definitely Ronaldinho.
14. What would be your biggest tip for players working to become pro?
My biggest tip would to just try as many avenues as you can and keep as many doors open as possible. There were numerous times where I wanted to quit, but you have to keep persevering, and put in the work, don't cheat yourself ever.
15. Common misconceptions about being a professional athlete?
I guess some misconceptions are that it's all glamour and came. There's a lot of hard work and sacrifice that comes with it. Your friends may be partying and wanting to go out, but you have a game the next day. Also the crazy travel makes it tough too.
16. What separates a professional from an ameatuer?
I think for one the sharpness a team has. A pro team will train everyday so the players are fitter and sharper since they're training year round. So tactically, a pro team will have their tactics down more.
17. Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model is difficult to say, but I do idolize defenders like Van Djik , David Luiz , and John Terry to name a few.
18. What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the future are to do my best every game, stay injury free, and play at the highest level possible. At 24, I know I still have a lot to improve.
19. Any last words for the readers?
To keep going towards your dreams, as cliche as it sounds. Never give up and never stop fighting. God recognizes who's working after their dreams and trying to make it work. Eventually at a certain point you will attract what you've been looking for if you keep working diligently towards it.
Interview by Chris Dailey
Big thanks to Leo for the fantastic interview! Great player on the pitch, and even better person off of it! Keep up the great work for Chattanooga, and best of luck in your future endeavors!