Blaise Matuidi – “To my gang of madmen”
Four days ago, I met Youri Djorkaeff. It sounds silly, but when I was looking at him, I thought about when he won the World Cup in 1998. Then I thought maybe, with a little luck, in a while, a player my age will say the same thing to himself when he looks at me. I have so much respect for him, that to tell myself that potentially, in 20 years, I would find myself in the opposite situation, it filled me with pride.
Then 48 hours ago, a thought crossed my mind. “In two days, we will have been world champions for a year.” It’s natural to remind yourself about it. Frankly, I often think about it. You can’t get tired of it, it’s impossible. In 30 years’ time, I will get up in the morning, perhaps with a little less flexibility than today, but the enjoyment will be the same. Unspoiled.
The same enjoyment as during those weeks in Russia. We were there, far from everything, and we managed to live some crazy moments. It’s powerful. And above all, not all teams experience it. Sometimes, during international competitions, you can find that the time drags. Last summer, at no time did I have that feeling. Never. Time was moving fast, but I was fine, I felt at home.
As is often the case at these times, it is the leisure activities that bring the team together. I remember the movie theatre, where nearly all of us would watch films. Little basketball hoops like in a “funfair” that they had installed because they knew that some of us liked to play there. Ah, that machine, I bled it dry. It was our little ritual. I wasn’t bad, but we know who the great basketball player in the group is: Alphonse. He broke all the records! There were also poker games, with Hugo and Olive as ringleaders. In short, a whole bunch of moments when we found ourselves together, given freedom by the coach, where you can fool around, but it’s not just fun, the sporting interest is real. At the time, you don’t realise it, you’re delirious, but you create relationships that will be important on the field. At times, during the World Cup, I thought to myself, “Go ahead, it’s your friend, make these two extra metres for him”. That sounds silly. But it’s the foundation.
If a year later, I think about this group again, I have to think about the moment that you all know now, because you too are part of the team. Honestly, I can say that this was everyone’s favourite time, except for the coach. We had just come back from the restaurant, it was after Argentina, I think, so it was a little festive. It often happened that the most festive people woke the early sleepers up. That night, it was my turn. There was a knock on the door, I opened it, and started to go out and sing. Lucas, he had his singing rituals, it was funny. Then we came across Adil. And Adil said, “If you knock on the door again, I swear, my revenge will be bigger”. You all know what happened next, the fire extinguisher and the fire alarm that accompanied it. As a result, we all find ourselves outside, and it’s very late. All 23 of us were there, like children, afraid of being slapped on the wrists by their daddy. We see the coach coming from far away, we all look at each other. Then we wait for the alarm to stop before returning to our rooms in silence. That moment… It was perfect.
A year later, I can say it in a relaxed way. This success was built on these moments and on everything we put into training. In our seriousness, our investment, our ability to focus on the event. But also on all the work that is done in the group. Here, the credit goes to the coach. We’ve heard it over and over, it sounds cliché, but it’s true. At 32 years old, I had never known a group like this before. There were a lot of good footballers but above all only quality men. Do you remember the behaviour of those who weren’t playing after goals were scored? The celebrations? Well, it was the same in practice. After a success, in training we weren’t there to be replaced. We were happy for each other, we screwed up, we messed up, but we never forgot our goal. How can we forget our goal with a coach like that?
Among all these good guys, all my brothers, I have a special thought for Hugo Lloris. Because Hugo and I are of the same generation. We played with hope together and shared many moments, including difficult ones, such as this defeat against Germany in the Euro’s. So to finish up like this. Wow. I was happy for him, because he had already had a huge World Cup but also because he is a really good guy, who has heart and who lived everything in Blue. He was in Knysna, I wasn’t there. He was there in 2012 for the elimination against Spain. Then the defeat in Ukraine in the qualifying play-offs for the 2014 World Cup. That was something. A French team with its back to the wall, which has transformed itself into a team of soldiers. Mamad’ helped us to lay the foundations for the future!
Because these values were also reflected in this France 2018 team. As in the match against Argentina. There were some wonderful moments during the competition, but I can’t hide the fact that Benjamin Pavard’s equaliser gave me chills, even on the pitch. The joy shared with the guys and especially that moment when you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, now we’re on fire”. We felt invincible after that, nothing could go wrong anymore.
Then the end of the story, you know it too. So I just want to say thank you to my crazy gang. Thank you for making me experience such a moment. I didn’t think that at some point, something like this could happen in my life. I had imagined things, but this, never. No such moment, with such a young group. In fact, I thank them too. The young guys. They created life and carelessness and we were very far from that. I don’t know if we would have gone all the way without it. There was a lot of talent in this team, but without this grain of madness, without having experienced what we experienced humanly, it would have been complicated. In football, there’s no point in being too straight, too square. There are moments for everything and the coach knew it. He knew that, and he knew he had a hard working group that could be focused when the time came. I think if one of you had experienced this from the inside with us during these few weeks, you would have said to yourself: “It’s not possible, they really are like that? They will never do it”. And yet.
Happy anniversary everyone.