Mette, ambitious Frenchman steering Djibouti’s revival

Mette, ambitious Frenchman steering Djibouti’s revival

Despite only 37, Frenchman Julien Mette has been coaching since the age of 20. Mette made headlines last month when he guided lowly ranked Djibouti to victory over Eswatini in the preliminary round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers.

The 2-1 win in the first leg, Djibouti’s first since March 2017, was enough for the Shoremen of the Red Sea, after a barren draw in the return leg in Manzini, saw them go through by a same result on aggregate.

Now, Mette is hoping to guide Djibouti to another giant-killing feat over Gambia in the preliminary round of the qualifiers for the Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021. Djibouti host the first leg on Wednesday in Djibouti City with the return due for Bakau four days later, with the winner after both legs proceeding to the group stage. caught with the ambitious Mette ahead of the Gambia for an exclusive interview. Below are excerpts; After your impressive performance in the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, are you under pressure ahead of your match against Gambia in the preliminary rounds of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations?

Julien Mette: The only pressure we have is to give to our fans. We want to make them proud. Regarding the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, we are relaxed in our head. We know we won’t compete in only friendly games in 2020 but also six official international games so it’s only happiness for a small country and team like us. The pressure is on Gambia who have an obligation to qualify.

Julien Mette

“The past is behind us. Personally, I don’t remember the time where I was unable to walk. It took years but now it’s in the past. It is the same for the Djibouti national team. New players. New coach. New methodology,” Julien Mette

Djibouti lost 6-2 to South Sudan at the preliminary round for the 2019 AFCON. How have you been preparing your team to go past this stage this time?

The past is behind us. Personally, I don’t remember the time where I was unable to walk. It took years but now it’s in the past. It is the same for the Djibouti national team. New players. New coach. New methodology.

What will be the approach for the two matches against Gambia?

All I can say is that I study the opposing team a lot. I dedicate days and weeks to watch their videos. I know them (Gambia) very well. My video analyses help my players a lot. We are more confident to come on the pitch if we know what to expect, and know the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. I have a plan, but football is unpredictable

What have you brought to the Djibouti team for the recent surge in the performance of the team?

I have put in a lot of work in the form of training sessions on the pitch and videos. It takes a lot of time. Minutes and hours, but the players are happy to work. I have a philosophy of play and every little drill we do is made in order to realize our philosophy. I brought my mentality. I am focused on details, discipline and commitment. I want intensity during training sessions and work a lot on the mental toughness of the team specifically the concentration and capacity of the players to resolve problems by themselves.

Julien Mettee

As a young coach, what inspired your decision to accept the Djibouti job?

I started to coach at the age of 20. Now, I am 37. I’ve coached all the categories from U-12 to U-19. I was Director of Academy in Libourne St. Seurin for four 4 years when the club played in LIGUE 2. Later, I worked for Girondins de Bordeaux. I also had spells in Congo between 2014 and 2017 in charge of two clubs, Tongo FC and AS Otoho, and an academy called La Djiri.

My last experience was very bad so when the Djibouti offer came I didn’t hesitate. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to build from the start. I found the opportunity to lead a nation at only 37 a unique chance. The type and philosophy of the players definitely convinced me to accept

Few months into the job, what is your assessment of football in Djibouti?

The level of the national league is low. The mentality is naïve and we are working on changing this mentality. The federation has worked on the organisational structure. There is a three level league for men, and also for U-15 and U-17 categories. There is also a Futsal League, Beach Soccer and a Women’s League too.

Plans are underway to establish an academy in 2020, which will helps a lot to educate the basics to the new generation. Djibouti needs to have players coming from other countries and also the best local players moving to stronger leagues abroad.

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