JPF TALK – Featuring Yohann Lacroix
Winning S-League championship and FA Cup with Etolie FC in their debut season, ending Tampines Rovers fans’ 7 years of wait for the S-League trophy, former French Ligue-1 Goalkeeper, Yohann Lacroix, shared with Junpiter Futbol
Winning S-League championship and FA Cup with Etolie FC in their debut season, ending Tampines Rovers fans’ 7 years of wait for the S-League trophy, former French Ligue-1 Goalkeeper, Yohann Lacroix, shared with Junpiter Futbol on his French futbol and his Made-in-Singapore futbol dream!
JPF: You had your debut game for Lille OSC at the age of 19 yrs old, can you still remember how you felt then?
LC: The game was against FC Dynamo Minsk in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. I was the first eleven and I played full 90 minutes. The feeling of playing in front of 20,000 crowds was amazing but I was not feeling nervous because my mind was so focus on the game that I had no time to be nervous!
JPF: How did you feel after winning UEFA Intertoto Cup with Lille OSC in year 2004 especially as a youngster in the team?
LC: I felt extremely good. I thought that was going to be a difficult year because of injuries in the team but we did well to win the Cup. And for me, its just the beginning and especially after the sweet victory, I am longing for more action too!
JPF: Who were some of the big names whom you played together during your time in France Ligue-1?
LC: I was fortunate enough to play among some of the big names such as Patrick Kluivert (retired), Adil Rami (Valencia), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle Utd), Eden Hazard and Mathien Debuchy (both Lille OSC). Rami and Cabaye even went on to represent France NT. Most of all still keep in touch.
JPF: What made you decide to move to Singapore in year 2010 to play for Etolie?
LC: Then, Etolie’s head coach, Patrick Vallee, contacted me and asked if I am interested to take up this challenge in Singapore. I had a great time playing in Greece back then but I thought it was a good challenge to give it a shot in South East Asia, so I agreed to join Etolie. It’s the start of an amazing season with Etolie!
JPF: In your opinion, S-League is comparable to France’s Ligue-1 Division-1, 2 or maybe 3?
LC: The top teams here such as Home Utd, Tampines Rover or even year-2010 champion, Etolie, is about the same as those teams playing in France Ligue-2 or Ligue-3. Tampines Rover is like Nimes Olympique which is playing between Ligue-2 or Ligue-3.
JPF: What is a kind of system/method which Ligue-1 has in place which you think will be useful or relevant if S-League can adopt the same system /method?
LC: A dual Futbol-Education system where players can train in the morning, study in the noon and train again in the evening. I am not referring to the Singapore Sports School but more to S-League club. This was exactly what I went through when I was playing in Auxerre (Ligue-1) youth team when I was just 14 years old. In fact, SAFFC has started a collaboration with Asia Pacific School of Sports and Business (APSSB) to establish a full-time Diploma study and Football Training programme. This is just one club and hopefully more S-League clubs will be able to follow suit.
JPF: Is there a huge difference playing for Etolie and Tampines?
LC: Language barrier, most of the times I would have to give instructions to my defenders at Tampines and I could not translate my instructions from French to English instantly! At Tampines, the play was more individual. With players like Ahmad Latiff, Fahrudin Mustafic and Aleksandra Duric, they could easily change a game. For Etolie, the play was more collective – passing game. Even if Etolie had skillful Flavian Michelini (currently playing for Bangkok Glass), their play was not as individual as Tampines.
JPF: In your opinion, why Singaporean players are not unable to land contracts with European clubs?
LC: Singaporeans are good but it’s the futbol culture that is preventing them from moving further. Priority here in Singapore is education, not futbol. Military service is another issue that kills off good players here. The time where players are enlisted into military is the age where they need to prove themselves but unfortunately this is happening. Life in Singapore as a citizen is good but not for futbol players.
JPF: Who were some of the most fearsome strikers you ever faced during your career?
LC: Last season’s S-League top scorer, SAFFC’s hitman, Mislav Karoglan, and also Home Utd’s Qiu Li – his free-kicks were causing me some problems. Back in my Ligue-1 days, Patrick Kluvert was the best. He was always giving me problems during training. He made me looked like a fool during training!
JPF: Other than winning UEFA Intertoto Cup with Lille OSC in 2004, you also won S-League Championship and League Cup with Etolie in 2010 and S-League Championship with Tampines Rovers in 2011, which was your most memorable win?
LC: It has to be the S-League championship victory with Etolie in year 2010. We had got great team players, great team spirit and all of us shared almost everything on and off the field. It’s the best year of my futbol life. Winning a back-to-back S-League championship with Tampines in year 2011 was equally excellent too. Considering Tampines and their fans waited for 7 years before becoming the champion again.
JPF: Ever thought of returning to European futbol?
LC: I did receive a few offers from Europe but now I still want to play in Singapore. I want to play in the AFC Cup and ACL with a Singapore team, and I want to continue to win championship with S-League club. Especially with the launch of my own Yohann Lacroix Goalkeeper Academy, I think I can contribute to the development of Singapore’s futbol.
JPF: Name your ideal first XI.