William Gallas: Hristo Stoichkov is a great legend
William Gallas, one of the toughest football advocates, gave an exclusive interview for the TV Code TV show. On November 17, 1993, he had the misfortune of being on the stands of Park de Prés. He was then a young player from the “Claphonten” school, who still only dreamed of a great career. Obviously, the Bulgarian triumph in Paris has not affected him so negatively. In the new century, he not only became a national of France, but also known as an iron defender at the three London Grands – Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. For them, they played a total of over 300 games in the Premier League. And he works with the great Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Gallas is certainly one of Eire’s greatest enemies. With his goal coming after Thierry Henry’s assistant, France qualified for the 2010 World Cup. And four years earlier he played at the World Cup final in Germany.
– Hello, William! We meet you at the legend tournament in Moscow. What is the feeling of being among so many stars before the World Cup?
– It’s great to play this tournament. I’ve seen a lot of friends I’ve played against. I am very pleased with the meeting with one particular – Hristo Stoichkov, a great legend. I remember when I was a kid, and he played for Barcelona and Bulgaria. Now I finally saw him face-to-face. Remind me of the times when I just admired the big ones on TV. I remember by what passion Hristo led Barca in the matches against Real.
– And where did you watch the match France – Bulgaria on November 17, 1993?
– Oh, I remember, I remember. I was at the stadium! At Park de Prés.
“How old have you been?”
– 12. I remember the drama well, because at that time I was at a football academy in Paris called “Claphon”. There are many great players like Thierry Henry, Nicola Anelka and many others. The academy arranged for everyone to go to Park de Prince and watch the game. It was a very important match for France, it was our ranking for the World Cup. We were all shocked. Nobody supposed we would lose. Bulgaria plays really well. You deservedly scored these goals, and the disappointment remained for us. That’s football.
– Besides Stoichkov, do you remember other Bulgarian stars?
– What was the name of the attacker who scored at the last minute?
– Yes, exactly Kostadinov. It is.
– After this match, France missed the World Cup, but built a golden generation around Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschan. What has changed in the French system to become so good?
– I think our academies have always taught youngsters how to play. When you have footballers such as Dessan, Zidane, Henry … many things are possible. We had a wonderful mix between experienced and young players. That’s why we won the World Cup in 1998. Everyone understood, the coach managed to cope with this team. And as I said, the French knew they had to change something in football. To get to this day when our country enjoys so many young superstars. The management works differently and in a modern way.
– Before World Cup in Russia you may have the most talented team in the whole world. Where did you find so many talents?
– From the academies. Very young and very talented boys play for France. There are also many who have not heard, but they are already in professional clubs. They are on the street and then on the school. There they understand what technique and tactics are. That’s why we have so many talents. But that does not mean we will become world champions. In order to win a monster, you also need seasoned footballers. Without this mix there is no way to happen.
– Do you think Kilian Babe and Osman Dembele, two of the most expensive players in the world are not enough for the title? Are not you the favorites with them?
– France can go very far in the tournament. But whether he will win it – I do not know! I hope. When you talk about Babe, about Dembele – I do not worry about their appearances. They are young, but they know what they want. They have enough classes, come to big clubs and they are not afraid of anything. There is no defender who can disturb them. When you are young, it is very different whether you play as an assailant or a defender. When you attack, you can try many things. When you’re back, you can not afford the risk. You can take it, it can cost you a lot of trouble and then a lot of trouble. And the attacker does not risk, but develops his qualities.
“Is there any tension on Mabape and Dembele because of the huge money PSG and Barca have paid for them?
– No I do not think so. Killian Babe is only 20 years old. But it is incredible. I already see that he comes out with self-confidence on the pitch. Football is a pleasure and he enjoys it. Down there – on the pitch. He always wants to win. Let us not forget that France has very good midfielders like Paul Pogba and N’Goolo Cante. Not to miss Antoni Marciale, who is ahead. It is important that the coach knows how to get the best out of them. That’s why we have good results. The boys listened carefully to Didier Deschan, and he obviously knows what to say to them.
“How long will Babe be in the shadow of Neamar in the PSG?”
“Everyone in the world knows Neamr, knows what he can do. He is one of the best. The PSG did not make mistakes, whatever happens, for me it is number one. Usually a player needs time to adapt to the new league. There is no exception for megastars. And Neimar is proof of what I said earlier – football is a pleasure. Both for Babe and for him. Kilian and Neimar changed the setting, but they were fiery on the pitch. Pretty quickly the two began to understand during a game. And I do not think that Babe is in the shadow of Neimar. They are completely different. Babe is younger and still learns. And there is a good teacher who says … Neimar.
– You have many matches for France. Who is the most memorable?
“You might be surprised, but the best memory is from my first game.
– And he was against?
– Slovenia. I will always remember this time. It was my dream of being a national of France. When you are a child, you want to become a footballer and make any sacrifices to win. I’m not talking about money, but being a professional and representing your homeland. When you succeed, every second of this match is sealed in your head. I remember all the sacrifices I made to get to this fight.
“You must have spoken many times, but let me ask you one of your goals for France. He was against Eire.
– What do you want to know? (laughing)
“Henry handed you a hand and you went to the world. Was he honest?
– Okay, I accept the question. But I will ask you one. Do you think Diego Maradona’s goal against England at the World Cup in Mexico was honest? Do you think the game with Luis Suarez’s hand in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Ghana was fair? This is part of the football. You understand me well. Everyone criticized France. Why? Maybe because our media started this campaign. This unleashed a waterfall from criticism against France. Do you think the media in Argentina criticize their team in the same way for the God’s hand? No! The same applies to Uruguay. Never! But our French media just broke up.
– Let’s talk about your career. You played in three London clubs. How did you go to England and how did you make transfers between Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham?
“Everyone wants to know why I’ve stayed so long in England and why I played for these three teams. My answer is very simple. When I left Chelsea, I did not want to do it. We did not find permission to continue our contract. I had to leave. I got the chance to go to another league – in Italy. But it did not happen.
– In which team?
– In Milan. It did not work out. My choice was to stay in London. A very nice city that my family did not want to leave. When you have children, you must first take care of them. The opportunity came for Arsenal and I went there. People need to understand very well. When I was a child, I never had a favorite team. I was a big fan of a club – the football club. It was normal for me to make this transfer. The most important thing for me was to give everything to my team to play. That was five years in Chelsea. I changed the club, I went to Arsenal for four years. And at that time I gave everything to them. Then I went to Tottenham. It’s hard for the English to understand me. From small ones support one team and accept as betrayal when you have to leave. It is normal to go to the stadium and shout for theirs. I respect him. But I did not betray anyone. But I expect to respect my decision. I told you – like a child I was not a fan of anyone. For me the most important thing was to give everything to the game.
– What’s your biggest success?
– My best season was 2005/2006. We won the title with Chelsea, then I played the World Cup final. We had a big team. As a player, you want to win everything – tournaments, titles. That makes you happy. That’s why we work.
“Still, do not you have a favorite among Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham?”
– I do not. In all three clubs I spent great time. Quite different. I left good friends. Everything was perfect for me.
– At your time Dimitar Berbatov was one of the Premier League stars.
– Yes, in Tottenham. I remember playing against him. Striker with excellent qualities. I have a very bad memory of him. Make me a fint that I will always remember. He was in Tottenham – Arsenal on White Hart Lane. I became a little ridiculous. And Berbatov showed a great class. He looked rather calm, did not speak on the pitch. But his qualities were indisputable.
– Do you agree that the English League is already international?
– I would say that football is changing. The world is changing. I’m a little disappointed with some clubs. They try to adapt to their rivals. Now it’s more tactical. I’m talking when the little ones meet the big ones. They struggle to adjust to their system. However, this does not work. You have to play on your system. Especially when you are at home. For example, when you host Manchester City or Chelsea, you have to play your football. Do not adapt to theirs. I remember when playing in Chelsea it was hard to beat the little ones. They were very strong, played with long balls, struggled for 90 minutes. At these moments it was a bit difficult. Now the little ones cheat on themselves against the big ones and they do not get them.
– Which of the coaching stars in the Premier League do you like most?
– I will not say I like this or that one. I’m a perfectionist. I want to take the best of everyone to become the best. For example, in Guardiola I like his idea of imposing his system and forcing his opponent to adjust. You see that Manchester City is the first. The same was done in the Bundesliga and the Primera Liga. If I had to talk about Jose Mourinho, who was my coach, I really like him. Every morning when I go to workout, I have to be a hundred percent on the pitch. Makes a mistake in the match, he immediately tells me in the eye. And in Arsene Wenger, I like his attitude to the players. Football is constantly changing and you need to know what to talk about. Antonio Conte is a man who burns 90 minutes off the pitch. He does not stop crying: “Give up, boys! Give it, guys! “When you’re on the field and you get tired, but you see what passion your trainer puts on, it often gives you new strength. Each coach is different. I want to learn from each other something.
– How do you see the Premier League final standings?
– Manchester City will be a champion. Then Manchester United will remain. Then Chelsea comes. Then comes the hard question of who will come out of Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal. I do not think the “gunmen” will be able to reach the final four. I would bet on Tottenham.
– Finish with a question about the biggest game in your life – the 2006 World Cup final How did you survive the Italian penalty with penalties?
– It was not easy. We were better than Italy. But in football everything can happen. You have to accept it. I do not think about this game. It remained in the past. It is important that I had the opportunity to be in the biggest game of the world. I thank the Lord for this. My dream was to play finals and win them. I did not succeed in this. Only a few days later I realized what we had achieved. What I remember from the tournament is the spirit of the team. After each match we also had our moments in the team. We were joking, laughing.
“What happened to Zidane?” Why did you hit Materets?
– Everyone has watched on TV. Loss of self-control. It can happen to the best. It was shameful, very shameful. Even for him to finish his career that way was very difficult. But Zizu is great! He gave us the opportunity to win the World Cup in 1998. He refused, then returned to the national team and brought us to the final in 2006. A great man. I’m not saying he’s a great footballer but a man. But a nightmare like the one in the final can happen to everyone.