What if the « little thumbs » of the Coupe de France were no longer as small as they looked? At the round of 32 stage of the competition, which takes place from Sunday January 2, the smallest division represented is the National 3, the fifth French division, where more and more teams with amateur status are tending towards professionalism. .
He went through the Girondins de Bordeaux training center, had several selections for the Togo national team and even played in an African Cup of Nations, but it was under the colors of Jura Sud Foot, a National 2 team. , that Cédric Mensah will face AS Saint-Etienne on Sunday. The Togolese goalkeeper is one of the few players of the Jura club to have a federal contract, which allows him to receive remuneration, without granting him the status of professional footballer. « With the match bonuses, it allows me to make a decent living from football without having another job, but without going crazy either », he explains without wanting to reveal figures.
Like Cédric Mensah, in National 2, many players can afford to live off football, thanks to federal contracts. They are on average 8 per team, according to a survey conducted by the site footamateur.fr, with all the same great disparities between the clubs which do not have a single one and those of which a large part of the workforce is under contract, such as Vannes OC, which meets PSG on Monday. A division below, in National 3, the average of federal contracts drops to two per club, with certain teams which have more than ten, such as AS Cannes, which faces Toulouse on Sunday.
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La Roche Vendée Football (N3), qualified for the round of 16 of the Coupe de France, has three players under federal contract among its workforce. « They receive at least 1700 euros per month. The other players are compensated for each participation in a match, up to around 120 euros, and with victory bonuses of 110 euros », says Christophe Chabot, the president of the club. This growing professionalization is also accompanied by more negative points according to the manager: « We are halfway between the pro club and the amateur club, without a unified status for the players, and at times it is a bit tense when you meet people in the corridors who only talk about their salaries and their interests. »
These interests are even sometimes defended by sports advisers, or even agents, available to certain players in the fourth and fifth French divisions, such as Canarie Unjanqui, supervisor in a college and central defender of Chauvigny (N3), who faces Olympique de Marseille Sunday : « I think it’s quite widespread among young players, in order to try to aim higher. My adviser allowed me to come to Chauvigny and that frees me to concentrate on football. At our level already, it don’t take anything lightly and have that professional side if you want to perform. »
To remain efficient within divisions which are becoming more professional, the players of N2 and N3 train very regularly. “We have three or four collective training sessions a week, in the evening, so that those who work can be present, and the players under contract carry out additional individual training sessions”, explains Christophe Chabot. In National 2, for Jura Sud Foot players, it is quite restrictive to combine a job with football: « We train every day and generally in the morning », says Cédric Mensah.
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In order to supervise these daily sessions and promote the recovery of its players, the Jura club has an extensive staff, which has little to envy to professional teams: « The staff is made up of a coach, an assistant coach, two physical trainers, a video analyst and a goalkeeper trainer. A physio also comes in once a week. They adapt training according to data statistics collected thanks to GPS that we install in life jackets. It’s very professional », assures the Togolese goalkeeper. On the side of the Roche Vendée Foot, « a trip concerns 25 to 30 people, just for the players and the staff », assures Christophe Chabot.
If the Vendeans travel to Versailles (N2) on Sunday, the nine other N2 and N3 clubs still involved in the Coupe de France face professional teams. Their players, some of whom come from training centers and others are former professionals at the end of their careers, will try to achieve the feat. « Even if the level difference remains significant, some of us had the same training course. So in a Coupe de France match, anything can happen. It will allow us to gauge ourselves, and we will play our luck at fund », promises Cédric Mensah.