The guest | Moncef Chargui, former international defender of Club Africain: « The Club must go all out! »


Regularly, he was given as an example by his coach André Nagy, whose difficult and very demanding character we know. For a good decade, his seriousness and his perseverance made Moncef Chargui a pillar of the rearguard of Club Africain with which he had won two Tunisian championships in 1978-1979 and 1979-1980, and played in three cup finals all lost in 1980, 1982 and 1985. Present with the national eleven at the 1983 Mediterranean Games and in the 1982 African Cup of Nations, the native of August 7, 1958 in Tunis signed in 1973 his first license for the CA cadets, and played in 1978 his first CA-COT meeting (3-1). Chargui also played his last match against ASM in 1987 (0-1 defeat) to immediately become a coach of, among others, Stade Zaghouanais, US Carthage, Al Ahly Landolsi, AS Ariana (cadets and hopefuls), CA (seniors and hopes), EO Goulette-Kram, Stade Gabésien, Jendouba Sport and ES Zarzis in Tunisia, Al Chabab and Al Hala in Bahrain, Arryadh, Al-Ourouba, Sedouss, Ennejma and Dorya in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Essouihli and Al Akhdhar in Libya…
Former commercial inspector at the Sfbt (1981-1991), our guest this week is married and the father of two daughters.

Moncef Chargui, with the Tunisian team, you experienced the traumatic experience of the severe double correction against Algeria (4-1 and 3-0) in the last qualifying round of the 1986 World Cup. did it pass exactly?

It is true that we had ample means to do much better. Coach Youssef Zouaoui was too young for a charge of this magnitude. Besides, certain things were imposed on him. Thereafter, he will evolve and learn a lot to become one of the very best, especially on the tactical level. It should however be remembered that Algeria was very strong, the same team had beaten the FRG (West Germany) at the previous World Cup in 1982.

Why did you miss the return match in Algiers?

I was seriously injured in the outward act, in El Menzah. Assad kicked me hard in the head, unintentionally of course. I had been in a coma for two days. I was not going to resume selection.

And your last game at Club Africain?

In 1987 at La Marsa. I was only 29 years old. However, our coach Amor Dhib took away my desire to continue playing. He landed at Park A with the firm intention of carrying out a purge and permanently removing the former players. His stratagem was clever because, in doing so, he hoped to dominate the youngsters in the squad and lead them to heel. You can imagine the kind of transition that took place at the CA: from Nagy to Dhib!

Tell us: why was your generation so deeply marked by André Nagy?

Quite simply because he was the great teacher capable of building a great team from average players. In his mind, it’s the little details that make the difference. As soon as he arrived, he told us that the individual marking was outdated, that the place had to be given up to the zone defense. He kept telling us that we had to attack the ball as high as possible, and never wait for the ball to bounce. That season, despite the difficulty of adapting to this “changing mentality, we finished as Tunisian champions. The defense took only six goals. Under the thumb of Nagy, Hedi Bayari finished top scorer in the championship twice.

About Bayari, is it true that Nagy gave him all his gaps, big or small?

Yes, he was his favorite because he showed unfailing rigor in applying what the coach asked of him.

Nagy was nonetheless described as a petty dictator. Is it true?

No, he was more like an enlightened despot. Preaching a simple and avant-garde game, he often had trouble with our winger Lassaâd Abdelli. Moreover, during the famous derby of May 5, 1985 won by CA (5-1) against Espérance de Tunis, Nagy did not intend to start him. But they forced his hand at the very last moment. Annoyed and angry with the leaders, he did not move that day on his bench. He had warned officials: “I am giving you the keys to your team. Do what you want with it!”. Furious, Nagy was then ready to leave.

At the time of your retraining as a coach, you must have learned a lot from the Spanish-Hungarian technician, right?

The fundamentals are the same. However, given the inevitable evolution of football, I had to free myself from the legacy of Nagy who told us the tragedy of the loss of his parents during the uprising in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, against the tutelage of the former Soviet Union in November 1956. He was then playing in Spain, after playing in Germany and France.

Currently, the African Club is doing badly. Why ?

Perhaps because we mix up the administrative aspect and the technical aspect. The Board must go all out while relying on its children and reconnecting with the traditions and values ​​that have always been its strength. The children of the club, among the coaches, must also be given priority because they know how to pass the baton from one generation to another. Like in a family. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. The time will come when the children of the club will come back in force to put it back on track.

The elders keep from you the image of the stopper who does not let go of his opponent with a sole. Is it your character that points there?

Yes, I dreamed of football. I believe in the virtue of effort and work. In training, it’s not fun, I give 200%. My technical means were not enormous, but I could read the game, and that is very important in football.

Did your parents encourage you to play football?

My parents come from Zaghouan. My father Larbi was a switchboard operator at the Lycée Carnot. He was a bit of an Esperantist, but once his son signed up for Club Africain, he became a 100% club member and went to the stadium to follow my matches. As for my mother Manoubia, she spoiled me by preparing the best dishes for me. I stopped my studies at the level of the technical baccalaureate, but the decision, inevitable so that I could devote myself to football, was not really very difficult to digest for my parents.

Who brought you to CA?

Said Mzoughi, a bank agent living in Le Kram who liked to follow young people around the neighborhood to enroll them in the African Club. He saw me play Avenue Mongi Slim, in our neighborhood. He led me to Amor Amri who had the great merit of patiently forging entire generations of club players. I found among the young people Slim Ben Othmane, Hassen Khalsi, Dakhli, Abderrazak Zarrouk, Rihane…

When you were young, who were your idols?

The Dutchman Ruud Krol who shines with his foresight and the modern game he played with his offensive climbs. The kind of leader whose personality and mastery shines through the whole group. In Tunisia, Ali Rtima, a very calm and lucid great defender. He had practically the same qualities as Krol.

How did you feel when playing your first senior match?

Fear, because in my position, each error can penalize any team. It was during the CA-COT match (3-1). My coach André Nagy, who was in his first season with us, brought me on in the second half.

Mokhtar Naili was in the woods. Thereafter, I was going to be more afraid with the return of Attouga. However, having Kamel Chebli by my side in the middle ended up reassuring me. We had practically the same profile, the same qualities, but we succeeded even though we were sort of duplicated. Because, it should be remembered, generally, the two axial ones, the libero and the stopper, must have different qualities in order to be able to complement each other.

Have you always played in the defensive axis?

Mokhtar Tlili lined me up on the right side for a long time in order to place Faouzi Sghaier in the center. In selection too, I sometimes played on the right side. Otherwise, I have always been axial.

What are the qualities of a good stopper?

In addition to physical and morphological qualities, a good stopper must have speed, reading the game, anticipation and timing. The tactical arrangements have been revolutionized. Today, we speak of a right axial and a left axial. We practice a zone defense, and the individual marking with the pants of yesteryear is no longer current.

Which were the centre-forwards that you had the most trouble scoring?

The faux-nonchalant kind has never worked for me. For example the late Mounir Shili (CSHL), or Abdelmajid Gobantini (EST).

Who have you played your best games against?

In the national team, in 1980 against the English of Southampton at the Zouiten stadium (1-1). I had to tag famous forward Mike Shannon.

I succeeded in it to the point that the Saints were very close to recruiting me. In selection, I have long formed a solid defensive hinge with Khaled Ben Yahia, a very elegant defender hence his nickname « Krol ». Our agreement was perfect.

What is your best memory ?

The titles of champion of Tunisia 1978-79 and 1979-80.

And the worst?

Our Tunisian cup finals lost in 1980 against EST, in 1982 against CAB and in 1985 against CSHL. A real black series!

In September 1983, at the Mediterranean Games in Casa, what happened so seriously that the national team’s activities were frozen for a whole year?

First, the team coached by the Polish Ryszard Kulesza was young. And then, these Med Games coincided with Eid. Everyone wanted to go home to celebrate Eid with their families. Frankly, we should have done much better in Morocco.

How many times have you been expelled?

Only once. Not for hard play, but rather because I challenged referee Neji Jouini’s decisions.

Tell us about your family…

In 1985, I married Kmar Msallem, a former CA and national team volleyball player, agent for an insurance company. We have two daughters: Zeineb and Selima.

In your opinion, who are the best players in the history of Tunisian football?

Tahar Chaïbi remains above the fray. Then come Tarek, Agrebi and Bayari. More recently, there have been Adel Sellimi, Skander Souayah, Zoubeir Beya and Hatem Trabelsi.

Finally, few people still remember your selection career where you also took part in the campaigns for the Pan Arab Games and the 1986 World Cup qualifiers…

This is actually due to my very discreet character. I’ve never made the buzz, and I can stay quiet and alone for a long time in my little corner. Besides, I don’t always know how to play cards. Don’t assume that I’m not sociable.

On the field, I become the opposite of the detestable image that is generally given of a stopper, namely that of a ruthless executioner, a brawler always in conflict with the attacker he is required to to mark.

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