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What have you become since the end of your playing career?
Like any professional player, after the end of my career, I took a little break. I took the time to recover and think about my future. Football has been my whole life, it has given me everything. I wanted to enroll in a project around football. Today I am an intermediate manager, a sort of representative for Greek football.
More specifically, what is your real role?
Today, in France, we have the chance to provide a lot of talent. As everyone knows, there is no place for everyone. It’s about helping all those people who can’t find a continuation for their career, offering them an opportunity to grow in another environment and in competitive football. In addition to the French market, and because of my Algerian origins, it is important for me to also help African countries and give opportunities to all these players who have talent but not necessarily the right people to guide them and give them the opportunity. opportunity to express oneself in Europe.
Why did you choose to stay in Greece after your career?
Because it is a country that has received me well, well adopted. Above all, it is here that I wrote my own football history. From there, I thought it was a logical continuation of my personal and professional development.
If you could go back, what would you change in your career?
If I had to change things…To be honest, maybe my professionalism. Afterwards, on sporting decisions, it’s a little too easy to say I could have done this, I could have gone there. I listened to my heart, I followed my destiny with passion so as not to regret my choices. In life, you can always do better and it’s easy to talk afterwards. But the most important thing, I think, is professionalism.
« I feel like it’s PlayStation football »
Rafik Djebbour with the FennecsPhoto credit – Icon Sport
In short, to be more irreproachable than you have been?
Yeah, that’s it. Today, when we see the development of football, it is very much based on psychological, physical and mental preparation. I think that these are details that have been lacking to me as a player. Of course, I wasn’t unprofessional either, but I could have been more efficient, more consistent and had other ambitions.
You were talking about bridging France, Africa and Greece where you arrived at the age of 20. You could play the role of big brother to these young people, would you like it?
Exactly. Big brother, brother, compatriot or at least player who had to have a completely different course and who knew how to raise his head. My mental strength means that I have succeeded in meeting almost impossible challenges at the base. When there are players made to succeed in France, but things don’t go well, I’m there to guide them both on the sporting side and in terms of hospitality, because Mediterranean football doesn’t look like nothing to the more European one. It is based on passion, aggressiveness, mental resistance, these are many details that are not necessarily learned in academy. In academy, we are taught to be rather solid on the basis of tactics, physicality, endurance and all that goes with it. But on the mental side, we don’t work enough. Here it is.
More generally, what is your vision of current football?
A little contrasting. Why ? Because football today is more about business than football. I started my career when the football business started to explode. But there was still an environment of players, coaches, people around the pitch who were passionate about and loved football with its true values. Today I feel like it’s PlayStation football. We like everything that is robotic, it talks more about money, sponsors, than football.
Everything you never liked in your career…
Everything that I never liked because as I said it was sure that I was going to come back to football. That’s what I like the most, I’m a real enthusiast. I am a child of L’Équipe du Dimanche, of Téléfoot, of everything that could stick with football. And of course practice this sport like all the children of the French quarters, playing from morning until evening. I’m a little nostalgic for all that and I find this change dangerous for the future.
How do you view the French championship?
I am impressed with the way in which France manages to produce talented players, to always be able to get back on their feet. I liked last year that a few teams, apart from the big ones, could play well, attack and put on a bit of a show. Now, I don’t want the French championship to become an open market. I want French football to be able to develop football that seeks attacking perfection rather than defensive perfection. Even if it is true that it is by defending well that we win titles. I think they have the weapons and the players to be able to defend well and attack well. Of course against PSG it’s more complicated, but I think it would be better to have more attacking football because there are a lot of qualities in France, a lot of attackers, a lot of players who can create occasions. For the good of the fervor too, to see more people, there must be goals, actions, the stadium gets up.
« Belmadi brings a great football performance »
Rafik Djebbour against PSGPhoto credit – Icon Sport
Do you continue to follow the news of the Algerian team?
Still ! The championship less, but the Algerian team, yes. I always have a watchful eye on what’s going on. Besides, I was very touched by the elimination and how it was eliminated (against Cameroon in the World Cup play-off, editor’s note). I think that in 2022, it’s not allowed especially when we talk about VAR and an intelligent video system that can solve all the problems. Finally, Algeria loses on a big refereeing error and when we see that the same referee has been selected for the World Cup, we wonder about the values of African football.
Compared to Algeria, what do you think of its evolution since the enthronement of Djamel Belmadi?
Overall, Djamel Belmadi brings a good football performance. He brought back another desire, another look at Algeria. He put Algeria at the top of African football, we even talked about it worldwide. Unfortunately, the regularity was not up to date because of the theft we suffered in the jump-off. It’s a shame for the group, for the players, for Belmadi. But I think that Algeria must be wary, the challenges of tomorrow are training and we are a lot behind. Where many competing countries in Africa have developed academies in all directions, Algeria continues to stay on its achievements and that is starting to be very dangerous.
Have you stayed in touch with football people? If yes, which ones ?
Yes not bad. Which ones is private. The people I have around me are both footballers and coaches that I have worked with, sports directors and agents. 80% of the people I come into contact with have a football connection.
Many of your former teammates have rebounded by taking on new roles after their careers. I am thinking of Yahia, Matmour or Bougherra. Why didn’t you take this turn?
I am focused on my personal projects even if I had the opportunity to work with Madjid (Bougherra, coach of Algeria A ‘, editor’s note). Moreover, for me, he is the future great coach of Franco-Algerian football. He is a complete coach, he has all the qualities of a modern coach. He is very intelligent in his way of coaching, his human management is extraordinary, I think he is a coach on whom we will have to bet in the future. He proved it by winning the Arab Cup. A young trainer without much experience can create the sensation. He faced coaches like Carlos Queiroz, who was Ferguson’s assistant and who is a very big name in Portugal and who was at the head of a selection superior to everyone because the Egypt team was at 70-80% complete despite Salah’s absence. Madjid is a great trainer in the making.
Are there any other technicians you like in current football?
It is not a technician, but rather a sports director that I want to quote. This is Karim Benounes, an unknown but very talented, very intelligent person, who has an extraordinary experience in football. He is very intelligent in the way of managing the expectations of the clubs, in his choices. I think it would make a very great Algerian leader if we were to contact him. I would see him occupying a big position at the DTN because he has a real background, a real experience.
Finally, what can we wish you for the future?
In general, I want to send a positive message and ask football lovers not to give up, to stay in this world and to fight against this football business. I’m nostalgic for real football hours, real moments, people who love football and talking with people who also love football.
Passed by Olympiakos, AEK Athens or Paniónios GSS, Rafik Djebbour shook the Greek defenses, enough to open the doors of the Algerian selection at the time. Withdrawn from the field, he looks back on the highlights of his career, the Fennecs or the French championship.
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