The French flair and the desire to discover the world have helped our athletes to easily export their talents abroad.
At 29, Mathias Coureur has already crossed the fields of France, Spain, Bulgaria, Georgia and Kazakhstan. The striker makes you discover his colorful career and his experiences that have made him grow as a footballer and as a man.
From my parents’ memories, I was barely walking, but I was already playing with a ball between my feet. In my family everyone plays football, I guess I was in it without even realizing it.
I was born in Martinique and I arrived in mainland France at 4. We moved to Sucy-en-Brie and took my first membership card in the City club at 5. My mother did not want to register me, but I was so determined that she finally accepted. It was just the beginning of a long story with football.
There was a tape dedicated to Ronaldo’s achievements. I was offered it and I think it’s the most profitable gift I’ve ever had. I could have watched it all day, if my mother had not set me limits. I was a real fan of that player.
I remember a stupidity. I had made one day: There was a story about Ronaldo in Téléfoot, a french tv show about football, on Sunday morning. Seeing this, I hastened to press the record button on the VCR, no matter what tape there was in. The problem is that friends of my parents had lent them the VHS of Titanic… And so it was on that one that I recorded the report on my favorite player. You suspect the reaction of my parents, but for me their friends ended up better off!
Still today I think that no one can reproduce what he was able to do, he is the best player of all time. Well I have not seen play Maradona or Pelé so it is true: “every era to his best player.”
A FAN OF PSG AND RONALDO, THE REAL ONE
As a kid, I was a fan of PSG, I was going to see the games from time to time. Every birthday, I knew it was my gift. I Mostly had the chance to play a tournament at the Parc des Princes. When you’re a kid, it’s a dream. I also remember to have gone to see some preseason matches not very far from home, at Bondoufle. My dream was to play in this PSG stadium with these supporters and this crazy atmosphere. I remember a match for the anecdote, Paris-Gueugnon in the final of the League Cup, Paris loses and I cried as if I had played and suffered defeat.
Like many young football fans in the Parisian suburb, I was not very diligent at school. I went mostly to play my favorite sport during break. I was making the teams during the hours of class. But I was not a turbulent child, just obsessed with football: if we were to do an essay I did it on football, when I was asked what job I wanted to do I said footballer, etc. I had made a lasting impression on my teachers, and I came accross someone and without knowing what I was doing with my life they told me: you are a footballer. My determination was obvious.
My years in amateur clubs in youth paid off, and I arrived quickly from the simple player fan, to the academy of a club recognized as Havre AC, at 12 years. At the end of this training, after six years, I had discussions with coach Jean-Marc Nobilo who still wanted to wait a year for me to sign pro. I took it the wrong way because I was young and impatient, so I went to Créteil, it was close to home, and I was a little disappointed with the world of football. After six good months, I go to Beauvais in National and following good performances I have several touches with pro clubs again and I finally sign for FC Nantes.
My goal was to become professional and play in Ligue 1, I made it half way as I often say meaning that I managed to sign my first pro contract in Nantes, but I did not play. Like many young people, we are made promises that are not necessarily held and at the same time on our side we may not give ourselves all the means to achieve this.
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After an experience like this, it’s true that we wonder what we’re going to do, what we can do. Concerning myself I did not have a diploma, as I devoted my youth to football, so I had no choice but to persevere in what I know how to do, in what I master, football.
There are many former teammates who have abandoned everything and this is one of the dangers of training centers, we neglect a little the school side thinking that we will all become pro, and when we face reality, we are so disappointed that we stop everything. There are several factors, luck, being there at the right time in the right place. Injuries also come into play, those of others and those of ours. Sometimes everything goes well with a coach, he leaves and the trend reverses, and vice versa.
NEVER GIVE UP TO REALIZE MY DREAM
My Nantes’experience has been tough. I had an extra sporting concern, the club misinterpreted it and sanctioned me by lending me to Gueugnon. The beginning was difficult, but my situation improved afterwards. I came back to Nantes where I made a white season in Ligue 2, and I played only in CFA with the reserve team. From that point on, I was struck off the list for all the other League 2 and Ligue 1 clubs. So I had no choice but to try the adventure abroad.
Failure is a leitmotiv. One of my coaches, Mr. Louvel, told me all the time “that you have to know how to lose to never want to know this feeling again.” The problem is that conversely it is often said that the important thing is to participate in France, but that is not my view of things.
I did some tests, especially in Greece where everything had gone well, in Dubai also and in Morocco. But I had a friend, Florian Tamila (who is currently the top scorer in the Cyprus championship) who told me that if I didn’t have an activity, I could train with his club. He played in Spain in the Third division at Orihuela CF, and what I did not know that I was taking a test. The coach often came to see me speaking of possible signature, I was not too interested and my friend Florian was the translator, but he changed my remarks by saying that I needed to think, without closing the door. I spent almost a month training with them waiting to see if a contract from another club would arrive and finally seeing nothing concrete I preferred to play security and I signed in this club for 3 years.
At first it went very well, I regained confidence and I had a good season, we even talked about me in a club of 1st Division. So I went from nothing to this in a few months.
After a while, I had some personal worries and wanted to take a break. My mother was in Martinique and I went to join her. In my head football was set aside, but once in Martinique I played with the Golden Lions for fun, it was a very friendly atmosphere, I was very welcome and it really gave me a taste back of football.
After six months, I decided to return to Spain at the Huracan CF, again in 3Th Division. My last season is not going very well. I had touches in Bulgaria for a little while and since it was a 1st Division I was tempted by this experience. So I played for Cherno More Varna. The beginnings was difficult, I did not play much, we always talk about this expression, But that’s true, the adjustment period exists and you have to be patient. A new coach arrived after a few months and gave me a chance. He told me before the game against a team of 2Th Division, Sozopol, “If you play well I keep you, if you play badly you take your stuff in December and you leave“. I say OK, no worries, I like challenges and honesty.
I played, I scored and I made an assist. The few games after it ended with goals or assists for me, I had gained the confidence of the coach I had found mine at the same time. I finish as the top scorer of the team, we win the Bulgarian Cup and I scored the winning goal in the final. I also finished top scorer of my team all competitions combined.
During my time at Tcherno More Varna
As I told you sometimes, luck plays a part, he might not have given me my chance and transferred me to the break. Of course, you also have to seize this opportunity at the right time, I had the luck and the mindset to do it. The next year, we win the Supercup and I finish third highest scorer in the championship, when I was two fingers away from packing a year earlier. Football goes very fast in one way or the other. I had a great relationship with the supporters and they also contributed to my happiness. Being acclaimed in a stadium is something vibrant. For the record there was a wish of the club to baptize one of the stands in my name, it was not done in the end, but it was already an honor that they thought of it.
My life in Bulgaria was a pleasant. I had friends in the team of course, Serbs, Spanishs, but also Bulgarians from the city. I went out a lot to coffeeshop, eat at the restaurant, everything is more affordable than in France and the atmosphere is good. There were plenty of activities possible, so I was enjoying as much as possible especially in the summer.
Following my good performance, I had some contacts with clubs from different countries, but in some countries, there are problems with payments and you have to be careful. A Ligue 2 club in France also contacted me, but with an offer that was not worthy.
DISCOVERING EASTERN EUROPE
I chose Tbilisi because when I visited the club I found that they had facilities as I have never had seen and an ambitious sports project. They had won the European Cup of winners of Cups thirty years ago and they wanted to reconnect with these good European performances. They were playing the preliminary round of the Champions League and like any football fan it has always been my dream to hear this little music when entering the lawn. We played two laps and were eliminated by Dynamo Zagreb. We were repaid in Europa League and eliminated by the PAOK Thessaloniki. Thereafter it did not go as planned, there were problems of payments from the beginning with the foreigners in particular and all this precipitated my departure after two months. The president wanted to get rid of foreigners, since we were no longer in the European Cup.
I had again a few touches that did not materialize at the last moment. Finally, the Red Lantern of the Bulgarian championship offered me my chance with a contract containing an agreement to let me go in December if another club showed up, in exchange for the reimbursement of wages.
A few months later, we get out of the relegation zone, I am the team’s top goalscorer and in December the Cf Azazmah Kyzylorda (at Kazakhstan) wants me and I’ve been there ever since. Everything goes well, I have a coach, Stoycko Mladenov, who played the World Cup in France with Bulgaria and with whom I learn a lot.
Life in Kazakhstan is not so easy. People doesn’t all speak English. Fortunately we are five francophones, one of them, Abdel Lamanje, who speaks Russian. I am also trying to learn a few words of course. I can’t complain because all the people in the club take care of me. They’re all very nice. It is a very different country, with a culture the opposite of our Western culture. Being a man of color in addition I know that their words or acts can hurt me, but it is not necessarily racism as one can know sometimes in France, in Spain etc… It is more like ignorance than anything else. They’re not used to it and I know it’s not mean. I have French friends who come to see me, and I have all the French channels so in the end I get to live my little life, being focused on football.
My first experience in Spain taught me a lot. It was necessary to adapt to a new country, a new language and another football. After this country remains similar to France on many aspects, it is really in Bulgaria that I forged a mind and it taught me not to be afraid of the unknown. There is no country where I would not go now. On the contrary, I want to discover more and more. I’ve met some great people in every city I’ve ever been to. I probably would never have known all this without football, me the little Martinique of Sucy, who went to school only to have fun at recess. Now I speak several languages, I learned a lot from all the cultures that I discovered through my experiences. And it’s not over.
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When I was a kid, I had an opportunity with PSG to join the youth teams. I disappointed my father because I preferred to sign in Le Havre. He did not understand my decision because it was my heart club, the one I dreamed of. I said, “I’ll play pro at PSG someday.” I did not have this career, but in the end my father came to Bulgaria one day. He saw the crowds chanting my name and cheering me and it made him proud as ever I could hope. My mother also came and what made her proud was the people who said “Thank you for bringing him into the world and raising your son.” My football level didn’t matter to her, but when people told her that I had values, that I was well-bred, that’s where it touched her.
It was a nice gift in the sense that a few years earlier they were scared when I went right to left for football. Parents worry and that’s normal. But you have to trust and support us, the rest, we, young people, can overcome it.
With childhood friends from my neighborhood we have also created an association in order to help everyone, regardless the country of origin, religion or skin color. The origin of this association came from my friend death.. His family did not have the resources to repatriate his body to Mali and with the neighbourhood we donated money in order to make it possible. We wanted to extend this idea of helping people in need with the Umma’Nité association.
As I told you I know where I come from, my friends also, and we find it normal to contribute in our way in return. We have already made actions for the young people of our neighborhood or the people in need, for the homeless in France, for Syrian refugees and some missions abroad also in Cameroon and Mali.
There is a lot of support in the neighborhoods in France and it is an image that is not often shown but that is important to me. Initially we were doing this with our own money, and money collected in the neighbourhood, but we grew up and now we need donations from everyone.
I’m almost 30 years old and I want to continue to play, enjoy discovering new things, to not have regrets. I have the chance to do what I like, and for the future, I think I’ll stay in this environment. I did some TV runs and I had good feedback, so why not evolve in this field. I love talking football, I’m an enthusiast as I said so in 10, 20, 30 years I’ll still be there, talking to you about football, over and over again.