20 years of the Calais miracle

first_img“I felt rejected. I had the feeling that French football did not want me” Ladislao Lozano, former coach of Calais Ladislao Lozano (Valhermoso de la Fuente, 1952) answers the phone aware that his annual appointment with the past awaits him. The first thing he does is apologize for his Spanish, a language he has not practiced regularly since 1956, when his family emigrated to France fleeing the Franco dictatorship. He returned to Spain to try his luck as a footballer at Racing Santander, where he coincided with Santillana, but the fear of being called up for two years of military service in an army responsible for the shooting of several of his Republican relatives returned him to France. . There he began his career on the bench. A profession, that of coach, that would end up giving him a place in the history of French football. In 2000 he managed to lead the modest Calais RUFC, an amateur Fourth Division club, to the final of the Coupe de France. “It is and will be the greatest feat of amateur football in France”, boasts when two decades of that match against Nantes in Saint-Denis are celebrated. After working in Morocco, Qatar or Algeria, Lozano parked soccer without fulfilling the dream of training in the elite. “I think I would have done well,” he predicts.His relationship with France begins in 1957, when his family decides to flee the Franco dictatorship. How do you remember it?My family history is very complicated, but, at the same time, very simple. I am the son of a Spanish couple who had to flee to France to continue living. Life in Spain was already impossible for them, because my father, a Republican, could not lead a normal life. I arrived in France at the age of four and here I started a new life. At the beginning everything was very complicated, but little by little everything was sorted out. I married a French woman, I had French children and now I am one more French. We only go to Spain from time to time, on vacation.As a footballer he did try to make a career in Spain …People said that he had many qualities, but the French teams had limited places for foreign footballers. That made my sports career there complicated. My brother’s father-in-law lived in Santander and got me a test with Racing. I spent two weeks and ended up staying, but had administrative difficulties. The Federation did not approve my signing and I could not play, but I had the immense luck to train every day with Carlos Santillana and Ico Aguilar. Then there was talk of what I would have to do the military service and I returned to France. There I played in Second with Amiens and Abbeville, which was where I met my wife.As a coach, his greatest feat was reaching the French Cup final with Calais, who was then in the Fourth Division. Do you still remember?You might think that since 20 years have passed, the memories are blurred. But it’s not like that. I remember it like it was yesterday. It seems that everything is very close and I have everything very well arranged in my head. When I think of something specific from that time I can also remember it in detail. It also helped that the playoffs went to a single match.If the Cup were to be played in a double game we would not have passed the first phase. Some coaches said that Calais had been lucky to play many games at home, and that is false. As a small team, we played at home, but our field was not prepared to host a game of that level and we always had to play outside, even when we were local. The eighths we played in Boulogne, the quarters and the semifinals in Lens and the final in Paris. It is not fair that it is said that we played with the advantage of the locality.Despite falling they were considered moral winners and even the Cup was lifted by the two captains. Did you receive many congratulations?Many, not many. The President of the Republic said that there were two winners. That congratulation was very gratifying, but not the only one. A while ago, rummaging through my memories, I found two boxes in which I kept all the messages we received during that season. I no longer remembered that I had those boxes full of faxes, letters and postcards that people from France, Spain and all over the world sent us. For them it was an extraordinary achievement and they wanted to tell us. Many said that we had made them happy. I proposed to the mayor of Calais that he make an exhibition. Everything was prepared, but had to be paralyzed by the coronavirus. We will do it next year.Do you think that, after the feat of Calais, you had the opportunities you deserved?The truth is that my career did not go as I expected at the time. I do not know why. It is something that I cannot explain. I have the feeling that we gave French professional football a terrible blow. They did not like that a Fourth Division team managed to defeat First and Second teams. And instead of giving me opportunities to work I felt rejection. I had the feeling that French football did not like me. Nobody called me. Well, actually yes, the Reims. I took it in Third I raised it to Second. Then we had a good season, but they didn’t renew me. I had to go abroad out of necessity, to continue working. I was in Morocco, Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait … What I wanted was to work in France or in Spain, but the proposals that there were never came to fruition.Ladislao Lozano, on the balcony of the Calais town hall during the celebration of the runner-up in the French Cup. At what point did you realize that this team could achieve something great?It was in his thirties, against Lille. At that time he was playing in Second, but he was a leader with more than 10 points of advantage over the second. We prepare the game as if we were playing against a Primera and we managed to beat them on penalties. We had been removed the year before, so we took it as a rematch. After that game I knew that a great team had been born. I said it at the press conference: ‘Today a team was born’. I didn’t know that we would end up playing the final, but I did know that from that moment on it would be very difficult to win.But they did reach the final. Today it is still remembered as one of the great exploits of amateur football in Europe.It is and will be the greatest feat of amateur football in France. But it is true that in the final against Nantes we reached a physical and mental drop. With each passing day everything was much more difficult. We were fed up with the pressure of the journalists and the atmosphere that had been generated around the team. When we played the final we did not have as much strength as in the semifinals against Girondins de Bordeaux, which was the party in which the team was best. And still we lost 2-1 with a penalty goal in the last minute. A penalty that, 20 years later, I still think it was not. We lost, but we earned the respect of all French football. People believed that in the final they would put us four or five, but it was not. We finished with dignity and it was the maximum we could hope for, because we knew how difficult it was to win.Do you remember what you said to the footballers before the final?I didn’t give the talk before the final in the locker room. I gave it at the hotel the morning before the game. The players already knew the eleven from the previous day. I explained the meaning of the game we were going to play against Nantes. I told them it was a historic meeting and that they should be careful, because what they did they would remember the rest of their lives. I also told them that I would not remember the game, that I would remember them. And they did what was necessary so that we had a good memory of that day. Nothing else. To play a final it is not necessary to motivate the players. They already know where they are. It’s a final … They know what they have to do.They went to rest winning, remember what he said then?The break speech was particular, because we were winning 1-0 but I was not happy with what I was seeing. I was not liking it and I was very hard on the players. I tried to make them remember the basics of our game. Shortly after, in the 50 ‘, we conceded the 1-1, although the match was very balanced until the referee called a penalty in favor of Nantes in the 90’. I repeat: I think it was not a penalty. That decision of the referee killed us.PASCAL ROSSIGNOL & nbsp; (REUTERS) ‘); return false; “class =” item-multimedia “>The Calais fans gathered to congratulate the team the day after the final lost to Nantes.PASCAL ROSSIGNOL (REUTERS) Is it true that you prohibited footballers from giving interviews in the days leading up to the final?It wasn’t quite like that. I always believed that the press is part of the event. He does not participate, because the journalist does not take corners or shoot penalties, but he is part of everything that happens. We met with the board and agreed that no player would speak without consent. The goal was to take pressure off them. Almost a month passed between the semifinals and the final and the ball that was ridden was huge. It was too long. We wanted them to be focused and save their strength for the match against Nantes. We just wanted to protect them.center_img For a Fourth Division coach, playing in Saint-Denis in front of 80,000 people had to be impressive.That was impressive. Entering that field with almost 80,000 people in the stands and seeing how almost 70% of the stadium was cheering us on was incredible. It was all red and yellow, the team colors. Many fans came from Calais and the atmosphere was amazing, but when the ball started to roll, both the players and I forgot about the stands and focused on the game. I remember that we had to prepare footballers, not only to play before 80,000 people; also to listen to the Marseillaise or bear the pressure of playing against Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic. Those from Nantes were used to all that, we were not. So I asked the Federation to allow us three days before the final to visit the stadium. We went to Saint-Denis and the players were able to start connecting with the field.Would you change anything about that match against Nantes?No. What happened, happened, and there is no need to give it more thought. If I think about why I did not put this player or why I did not make such a change in such a minute I would not sleep. Everything I did I did because, at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. Throughout the Cup it went well. On the day of the final we lost, but there is no need to look for a reason. It was like this.How did the 2000 Calais play?Sometimes I talk to people who hope that an amateur team like that one would reach the Cup final playing like the First. If I get to prepare Calais thinking that we could win in technique or tactics to Strasbourg or Bordeaux we don’t win a match. We wanted them not to be comfortable and we did it by pressing very hard from the front of our area to the center of the field. We physically prepared the team so that each player was able to press throughout the match, including in overtime. The idea was to reduce the actual playing time and the ability of each rival to think. It was difficult, but we did it and managed to recover balls and go out on the counterattack before the opponent could organize. This is how we managed to reach the Cup final with an amateur team. Ladislao Lozano, former coach of Calais “At halftime we were winning 1-0, but I was not happy with what I was seeing and I was pretty tough on the players” How would you define yourself as a coach?They say he had an iron fist and a silk glove. People saw me as a leader, a great group manager. He was tough, demanding, and always made the decisions he considered fair. And he was a hard worker, but I can’t speak more about myself because I don’t like him. If they had given me the opportunity to work in France or in Spain I would have achieved glory. I think I would have done well.What does Ladislao Lozano think about current football and the millions that are spent on transfers?Well, when I was training the money problem, I was already starting to have a leading role in soccer. And I say problem because, for my taste, these astronomical figures are. In France, PSG have millions and millions, and when they lack millions, they call Qatar and get more millions. It’s good for the club, but not for Ligue 1. The championship needs to have more balance, that other teams have a chance to win. The PSG, with the money it has, the only thing it can and should do is win, win, win and win. And that for French football is not a good thing.What team is Ladislao Lozano from?I don’t support any particular Ligue 1 team, but maybe it’s from the Stade de Reims. Because I trained them and because they were the first French team to reach a Champions League final. I have been separated from football for three or four years. Now, after a decade away from Calais, I have returned. Natacha Bouchart asked me to join his team of municipal councilors and I accepted.Have you met again with any of the heroes of 2000?I’ve only been in town for a short time and haven’t seen anyone yet. Only Réginald Becque, who was my left back. He was invited to two of the meetings we had to prepare the exposition of the letters written by the fans. I have not agreed with the others, but I hope to see them in the next few days, when we can finally leave home.Do you stop a lot on the street?Less than before, but they do stop me. There are still people who remember what we did. I hope that soon we can leave the house and more people stop me. Is very nice.(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0MK6y4ih38 (/ embed)last_img

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