You arrive at Strasbourg at the time of the rise in Ligue 1, in 2017, from Valenciennes. Why did you make this choice?
I was coming off a successful half-season with VAFC in Ligue 2 and I had some offers from Ligue 1 clubs. Marc Keller and Loïc Désiré contacted me to explain the club’s project to stabilize Strasbourg in the elite. I was immediately convinced and my choice did not last long.
The Meinau, a pitch you had already played on…
I had good memories of the Meinau when we came there with Valenciennes: a full stadium and a great atmosphere. For me, who came from the lower divisions, what could be better than to discover Ligue 1 in a historic club of the country, with a public, enthusiasm, a beautiful city and a great region?
When you arrived at Strasbourg at that time, what was the project like, the club?
It was a family club with very good values. Strasbourg had just come back from a long period of demotion and wanted to be in Ligue 1 for a long time. There were a lot of players who had never been to this level, some of them had the same background as me. We had a good group with a positive atmosphere.
“In Lille, the stadium was ours!’’
Did you feel a particular flavor around Strasbourg at that time?
As I said before, the rise of the club generated a lot of excitement. During the summer, the excitement of the whole city was palpable. The training sessions were already open to the public at that time and there were a lot of people there when the weather was good. All these people who had experienced the descent into hell were waiting for one thing: to see Strasbourg in Ligue 1 again.
As is often the case with promoted clubs, the first season in the top flight is not always easy…
It was a discovery for many of us. This first season in Ligue 1 was complicated, there were ups and downs: we made a great start during the first months, before suffering a little stoppage towards the winter break, then we got the maintenance on the penultimate day in front of our public…
This evening of the maintenance against Lyon, what a memory!
I will never forget this match. When I came back, we were down 2-1. There are ten minutes left to play. On one of my first balls, I score the equalizer. Then in the extra time, at the 94th minute, I provoke the foul which brings the famous free kick of Dim’… And what a free kick, full lucarne! This match, like the victory against PSG at the Meinau, will always remain in my memory.
“Europe, a difficult challenge but a good experience’’
Your second season at Strasbourg is also marked by the League Cup. Was it a great moment in your career?
It is one of my best memories as a footballer. We had a great group. Everyone gave 100%, whether in the league or in the cup. We were together, united. To be able to win this trophy, it was amazing. In Lille, the stadium was ours, it was incredible. I felt like we were playing at home.
This victory in the League Cup allows the club to return to the European evenings …
The Europa League play-offs at the Meinau, under a sick heat, it was something! I remember Maccabi Haiffa, I had a good game. It was really a great adventure. The European Cup, it’s the far away travels, in destinations sometimes a little lost, the public that moves, the hostile contexts at times… It allowed us to discover the high level. For Strasbourg, in Ligue 1 for two years, it was a very difficult challenge but it will remain a good experience.
What did you like during your time at this club?
The enthusiasm of the public, of course. Playing in a city that breathes soccer. No matter where you go in Strasbourg, people recognize you and are nice to you. It’s a city that means a lot to me because my son was born there. Then, I kept a lot of admiration and respect for President Keller, a brilliant and very kind man. A character like Guy, the team manager, is also someone who marked me. I liked the family atmosphere.
“I always keep an eye on what Strasbourg is doing’’
When you were abroad or even in Caen, did you keep an eye on the results of Strasbourg?
Of course, because I still have many friends who play there, whether it is Jeanjean, Sanjin, Dim’, Matz, Alex with whom I am still in contact… It’s normal to watch the results and see the games when possible. Even if we are fighting for the same goal, I always keep an eye on what the buddies are doing.
Is it your first-time back in Strasbourg?
Yes, I haven’t played again at the Meinau since I left and I haven’t had the opportunity to come back to Strasbourg. Even if I am fully focused on keeping Auxerre in the game, I know that there will be a lot of pleasure and emotion. We always keep in our heart the adventures of the past and this one is unforgettable for me. When you have been to Racing, you always have the heart of a Strasbourg man.