France's World Cup-winning captain tells Chris Hunt & Titus Chalk about Jacquet, Chirac & Blanc
What was it like to be named captain for France 98? It was being selected as a player first and foremost – that was important. There’s nothing more beautiful than the national team and I appreciated every cap, be it the first, 50th or 100th. But yes, my proudest moment is that victory and that team, because we could overcome any obstacle, hated defeat and always stepped onto the pitch to win. It was a privilege to captain that team.
Could you explain your role as captain of that side? I was there to direct my team-mates, to encourage them and to rectify any difficult situations – but also to be Aime Jacquet’s link to the players. It’s very important for a manager to be able to gauge the feelings of his squad and the captain, or rather the leaders in the squad, are the best placed to do that.
What went through your head as you took to the pitch for those World Cup games? I was trembling. Because it was France and the World Cup – every kid’s dream. It was at home, in front of our fans, our families, our friends. Those moments in the tunnel, wearing the national shirt, were marvellous.
What did you make of Laurent Blanc’s suspension for the final? Were you worried? It was an enormous injustice, but I admired his behaviour after it happened. Knowing we would be playing the final without him, he still managed to remain calm. It proves not only what a great player he was, but what a great man.
What did it feel like to lift the World Cup trophy? Incredible. And such a privilege as captain to be the first. You want time to stop, because you know that nothing will beat that moment. I was thinking about my family and friends, who had supported me all the way. It was amazingly satisfying to win the most beautiful competition that exists.
Did President Jacques Chirac say anything when he handed over the cup? He must have done, but I was in my own little world. I was so desperate to take the cup and lift it. But he was someone very close to us and who believed in the team. Before the tournament he told us that he had been practicing handing us the World Cup. That made us smile and it was good to know he was behind us. Along with the huge public support, it was part of what united us.
Interview: June 2010.