MIRABEL, Que. — Montreal Alouettes safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy admits that the height of the moment might’ve got the best of him in a viral post-win interview at the Grey Cup.
The Alouettes upset the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 in the 110th Grey Cup on Sunday at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton to win their first CFL title since 2010.
In a passionate post-game speech, Dequoy, the East Division’s nominee for outstanding Canadian this season, told French television station RDS that nobody believed in the team and took issue with the lack of French signage at the Grey Cup.
"We really saw a young guy overcome with emotion who was just happy to celebrate, and was told after, 'Yeah, you should've calmed down,'" Dequoy said Monday on the tarmac at the Montréal-Mirabel International Airport.
The 29-year-old from Ile Bizard, Que., also complained about a TSN broadcast listing that had the Toronto Argonauts facing off against Winnipeg in the final instead of Montreal two days before the game.
"They never believed in us," an animated Dequoy told RDS in French. "But you know what man, keep your English, because we're grabbing the Cup, and we're bringing it to Montreal, and we're bringing it to Quebec, and we're bringing it home!"
Although his emotions ran high, Dequoy didn’t back down from his message on Monday. He clarified that his speech was not directed at English-speaking Canadians, but he felt the league treated French Canadians and the French language with disdain during and leading up to Grey Cup Week.
"I just felt disrespected for me and for my province and for my heritage,” said Dequoy. “When the emotion is so high after the game, what I actually meant was not (against) the anglophone people, it was just 'you can keep the sign in English.' That's what I meant."
The CFL received criticism after the national anthem was sung exclusively in English during the East Division final between Toronto and Montreal on Nov. 11.
French-Canadian reporters covering the event in Hamilton pointed out that there wasn’t a single French-language sign promoting the game, something the league remedied with a few posters and logos a day before the final kicked off.
"The CFL is bilingual. The CFL is French and English as Canada as a country is," said the bilingual Dequoy. "We just felt that … the French-Canadian was not respected, the French language was not respected.”
The part about "nobody believing in us" needed no clarification.
"We've been neglected since the very beginning of the year," said Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia.
Many pundits pegged the Alouettes to finish near the bottom of the league in pre-season projections after a tumultuous off-season that saw the CFL take control of the team in February.
Québécois billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau bought it a month later, but the Alouettes had already lost several key players in free agency by then.
Maciocia built a team around players with something to prove, starting with quarterback Cody Fajardo — who has often characterized his team as a “band of misfit toys” in recent weeks.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders dropped Fajardo as a starter late last season before letting him walk in free agency, leading the 31-year-old to contemplate retirement. On Sunday, he was named Grey Cup MVP after producing 290 passing yards and completing a game-winning drive in the final minute with his third touchdown pass of the game.
The Alouettes defied expectations by going 11-7 in the regular season to secure a home game against Hamilton in the East semifinal, which they won.
Montreal then toppled Toronto (16-2) as 10-point underdogs before beating Winnipeg (14-4) as eight-point underdogs to claim the title and end the year on an eight-game winning streak.
With all the noise around the team before the season, even Maciocia wasn’t expecting his group to pull it off.
"Maybe that’s the winning recipe," he joked.
Although Maciocia says he may have handled the post-game interview a little differently, he believes the energy Dequoy displayed is precisely what made the Alouettes a championship team.
“We have to understand that Marc-Antoine is 29 years old and I'm 56, so our approach is a little different," said Maciocia. “But if that's what you need to motivate yourself, and to give yourself an extra reason to go get a win, you do it.
"That's the way we built (this team). We wanted to build it with guys that had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, had an attitude," he added.
The championship parade will take place Wednesday in Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2023.
Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press