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Arsène Wenger: “Defeat is a killing”

“My life in red and white” (Jean-Claude Lattès editions), the autobiography of Arsène Wenger, 71 years old this October 22, is number one in sales in England. In France, the book released on October 7 is making its way. The coach of Monaco and especially of Arsenal for 22 years, who won three league titles and seven “Cup” in England, looks back in depth on the extreme sensations of the coach and his incredible career in this beautiful story full of humanism and lucidity.

Your life is the story of a little Alsatian who, before conquering the world of football, spoke the dialect more than French …

ARSÈNE WENGER. I didn’t speak French at all. It also comes from the fact that Alsace has been tossed around, all the time, between France and Germany. My grandfather did not speak French. Between 1870 and 1914 Alsace was German. He was born in 1890. In 1910 he left for the German army for four years. When he was due to return, four years later, the world war broke out. He did it with the Germans, and when he came back he was French in 1918 …

It’s a bit crazy… Did we love the Germans or hated them when you were a child?

After World War II, we were encouraged to hate them. We have been taught to hate Germany. At recess, we were forbidden to speak Alsatian, it was frowned upon, for these reasons. It sounded a bit like German.

Your native village seemed timeless …

Yes, out of time. There was no tractor at all. It was a subsistence agriculture with horses. The first tractor, I saw it when I was 13.

What is the vital quality that tore you from this original environment?

It’s the taste of physical work, effort, and the daily contact of the discussion around football, when I was still very young. The local club headquarters were based in my parents’ bistro, so I only heard about football. Later in my life, I actually did both: physical effort and love of soccer.

Did you have enormous self-confidence to leave this world?

Huge, no… But enough to take action. It was my entourage who pushed me. I have met a lot of people in my life who have said to me: “But it’s obvious, my friend, we trust you, go ahead. »If life is to fill a bottle, deep down, you put talent. Then you look at your level of talent and if there’s a lot of space left, you have to put a lot of work into the bottle. And the last layer is luck. Life is a bit like that. There was still some void in the bottle, I had to work a lot …

You were a professional player in Strasbourg, even champion of France in 1979, but a little anonymous …

I arrived very late, too late, at this level. I was already 29-30 years old. I was already a training center coach and semi-pro. We weren’t rich, but we ate at noon and in the evening. I found it very well paid. Compared to football now, these are tips …

The job of coach, “is to rise from the ashes, thinking that we have found the solution to the problem,” says Arsène Wenger./LP/Olivier Lejeune

Another oddity: it’s when you go down to division 2 with your first club as coach, Nancy, that Monaco recruits you …

I even had the choice between Monaco and PSG. People must have seen something in me that I couldn’t see. It gave me a good dose of humility, to start with difficulties. It shows a little what the life of a coach is. You go down and the following year you are champion with Monaco. We didn’t have Neymar in the team, in Nancy either …

You repeat several times that football is a matter of life and death …

Defeat is death, killing. Victory is life. Defeat means the death of your profession. No risk of being fired, no, we don’t see it that way, but it’s something brutal and extraordinarily painful.

In 36 years of coaching, you have inevitably lost quite often …

At Arsenal, I think I lost one in five games. This job is to rise from the ashes, thinking that we have found the solution to the problem. A good trainer is also a crisis time reducer. Where one loses three games, the other loses only one or two.

Giroud and his 100 selections, isn’t that the typical example of what you advocate, absolute endurance?

Yes. Giroud was rejected by the system. He played in Grenoble, led by a coach who did not believe in him, and he finished with 100 caps. His life is truly amazing. His mental strength… It’s a lesson: a coach should always be open-minded and not condemn people.

You talk about great loneliness when you leave Arsenal …

It’s the end of a love story that ends abruptly. I was coming to the end of an adventure, and when you get to 69, at some point …

You won’t beat the record of Bobby Robson, who coached well after 70 years …

73 years old I believe, like Ferguson. I was correct like Frenchie, I told them: “I’ll leave the record to you …” (he smiles)

Do you see yourself with Ferguson?

From time to time yes. There is a lot of respect, esteem and friendship between us.

You hardly mention the atmosphere of suspicion during your rivalry against OM at the head of Monaco, those years marred by businesses like OM-VA …

I did not want. If we balance, we have to prove it. And I did not want to make a bitter book but an optimistic book, to tell young people: life can be greater than your dreams.

You didn’t have the rage to perhaps not fight on equal terms?

I was rabid but time is a good doctor. I have a big picture of my life and I know I was lucky. In all life, we make you filth from time to time… It has not diminished my faith in man. This is what has always guided me. This protective naivety helped me a lot. It’s a very healthy naivety that allows you to live better.

“I need not to exclude it”, underlines Arsène Wenger on his desire to train again./LP/ Arnaud Journois

You hold a post of director of football at Fifa. So that you don’t completely quit your drugs?

Yes, of course, and be useful. I am not a pleasure-seeker who enjoys doing nothing from morning to night. To love, to create, to work, is my leitmotif.

And train again?

I need not to rule it out.

Do you finally have some time for yourself?

Not as much as I thought. I travel a lot between Paris, Zurich and London.

At Fifa, you advocate a World Cup every two years …

It’s an idea I’m throwing in to think about it. Does four years still match the pace of life today? Prestige is not linked to scarcity, but to quality. The best proof is the Champions League.

The Arsenal manager would not agree to give such a place to the national teams if?

No, the Arsenal coach would not agree but he would not necessarily be penalized, because we could combine the qualifications over a given time.

You are not a fan of the League of Nations …

People don’t know why it exists. It is better to have real competitions. When a sport is very popular, its competitions should be very simple and understandable.

You write that football is an art …

He must tend towards art. It’s body expression with a ball. Great players have that in them.

Article original de: www.leparisien.fr

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