“Come on, three more minutes of recovery and we resume! »His deep voice can be heard from the handrail of the small Jean-Gallet stadium. At 56, Jean-Pierre Papin has returned to service this season at FC Chartres (N2, the 4th national level), five years after his last experience at the Bassin d’Arcachon (N2) and a decade after his last stint with the pros at Châteauroux (L2).
The choice to leave this low may surprise on the part of a former international player (54 caps, 30 goals with the France team) crowned Golden Ball in 1991. The former OM striker, from the ‘AC Milan and Bayern Munich hosted this Thursday morning in good humor and summer heat the first of two daily sessions, focused on physical work, before explaining the reasons for this return.
Why did you resume coaching at the 4th national level?
JEAN-PIERRE PAPIN. I wanted to find the land! Then you had to find the right project. With Gérard (Editor’s note: Soler, the president, former international player), we had been discussing the possibility of coming to FC Chartres for a few years, but my family situation at the time did not allow me to do so. It was complicated to combine the management of a football club with my association, Neuf de Coeur, and my daughter Emily (suffering from brain damage since childhood).
How is she ?
She continues to make progress, even though she will be 30 at the end of the month. We know that she will never be like the others. But Emily lives with us being 200% family (She is the third of five siblings). We have one more worry than most other parents, and we’ve made do with it. My career was on standby because my daughter is more important. Today she is fine. I’m going to have some good time with football because I need it too. But Emily will always be my priority. She has a program every day with stakeholders who are there to help her progress.
Is this your greatest victory?
One day, I was told in France that she would never work. Now she is able to run 10 km with me every day. We should not always believe what we are told. Emily, this is the fight of a lifetime! You have to be present every day. There are a lot of people who are ashamed of having a disabled child, but we mustn’t. He is a different child who needs a little more care, affection, and we manage to resolve certain situations. But not at all.
You were a pioneer by creating your own association, Neuf de Cœur…
It was easy because we had a disabled person. The association made it possible to inform about what was happening elsewhere. Today, Neuf de Cœur is 23 years old and has helped many people.
Is it a goal to find the world of pro football?
We don’t do this by chance. This project motivates me. Building, shaping the club and going up in National then possibly in Ligue 2 is even stronger than arriving already within a pro club. I want to leave a trace. The problem in football is that you don’t have time.
What do you like about coaching?
The smell of the locker room and the field. And also the desire to bring my experience as a former player. I don’t have a magic wand. Getting the messages across is one thing, but after that it’s the players who have the key. But I’ll always be there to help them open the door.
Do your players ask you questions about your background?
Yes. It makes me happy to remember it and tell it. But they don’t realize the investment and sacrifice it takes to have a great career.
At the end of 2016, you were in contact with Jacques-Henri Eyraud, the president of OM. Why did it not work out?
We saw each other only once and we mentioned the possibility that I would join OM in a position to be defined. He told me : I’ll send you a proposal by email next week. I’m still waiting…
Apart from Basile Boli (sports coordinator at OM), do you think that we make sufficient use of former members of the club, like Bayern Munich for example?
No. In Lyon and Lens, we use the old ones. In France, the elders are often left aside. It’s a shame, because it is a guarantee of its past, of the success of the club. We can send a message to young people.
Do you dream of joining OM?
I hoped for it at one point, but now I’m not wondering. If I had to join Marseille, it should have been done before.
Would it be a good thing if Marseille were bought by foreign owners?
I do not know. People have bought the club and are working. The results are rather interesting because Marseille is back in the Champions League this season. I want OM to go as high as possible.
Can PSG finally win the Champions League?
I hope that the Parisians will go to the end. They have never been so strong but there are other teams who have the same quality and the same motivation. This competition is played on details.
Who will be the next French to win the Golden Ball?
Logically, Kylian Mbappé! He has his head on his shoulders, He is efficient, he has everything to win it. Afterwards, will he be Ballon d’Or playing in France? I hope so for him. But the day he leaves Paris for a very big club like Real or Barça, he may have better luck. The Golden Ball is more important in these clubs.
After encouraging results (rise to CFA 2 with Arcachon then accession to L1 with Strasbourg), your stay in Lens ended badly (relegation to L2) in 2008…
I was forced to have a pair (with Daniel Leclercq) and it had gone wrong. I think I could have done it on my own but it was a decision of the leaders and I accepted it. One year later, in Châteauroux (L2), I was alone in control and it went well. We saved the club from relegation in six months. I then left because the president was not sure to stay.
Did this bad experience in Lens frustrate you?
I knew this environment but not in this way. We must not go out of the circle and I got out of it. Today, when a coach gets fired, he goes elsewhere because presidents and professional coaches rub shoulders. If you are not part of this circle, it becomes very difficult to find a position.