These new series are about national and club captains; why do they wear the armband, are they so different from their team mates ? Here’s the first one, Hugo Lloris, goalkeeper and captain for club and country.
Was it or not written on the stars ? The baby born on Boxing day (December 26, 1986) in a posh neighbourhood in sunny Nice, was not predicted to be a footballer, at least not by his family. Named “Hugo” because his parents were great admirers of French world known writer Victor Hugo, he grew up following his father, banker in nearby Monte Carlo and his lawyer of mother in the country tennis club, where he, like the rest of the family, was initiated to the game and excelled at it. He played that sport until the age of 13 and was among the top players in his age group, ranking high in the national standings but …
Was it fate, written on the stars…who can tell ? Hugo started playing football with his tennis mates just to kill the time before the tennis lesson ; he already wanted the goalie’s place and he was so good that a person who worked at the club, asked his brother, a football coach at Cimiez to come and have a look at that gifted youngster.
When CEDAC(Centre de diffusion et d’action culturelle) asked the six-year-old to join the club, Hugo was delighted, but his parents not so; they agreed under conditions: their son had to continue the tennis lessons and be a good pupil at school. Anything but to continue his dreams about football, but the little boy was as stubborn as his parents. Fortunately, he had an ally in the person of his paternal grand-father, a great football fan : it was he, who took regularly his young grandson to the stade of Nice to watch and cheer the local team.
Hugo with his first “boss” twenty yearslater(CEDAC)
Hugo Lloris spent five years in that small club and maybe CEDAC was the first place where the initiation to his future captaincy started. Cimiez wasn’t the upper-class suburb where the youngster used to live but a modest place of hard-working people who sent their children to play football, hoping to give them a better future. The son of a bourgeoise family wasn’t something they were used to deal with, but on the pitch Hugo was always “the boss” without any doubt.
Former France’s and Nice’s GK Dominique Baratelli, after watching him playing, he recommended the young one to join OGC Nice’s Youth Academy. Hugo spent 12 years in his native town’s club and combined studies and football; it wasn’t easy, because his parents wanted him to go study in a regular school not in the Academy’s one who proposed fewer hours of studying. After all, football was just for fun; studies and university, that was the future for their first born !
Just imagine the mental strength and character of that boy who loved dearly his parents and wanted them to be proud of him, but he also wanted to fulfil his own aspirations!
So he did; he signed his first professional contract just after obtaining his Baccalauréat (sciences and maths) : his mother was so furious that she never went to the stadium watch her son playing! She died when Hugo was 22, but the french captain confided to La Libération, a french newspaper that after her death, he found evidence that she was monitoring his progress in the football world. Two days after her death, there was a very important game at Nice; in that case, the french law give days off (bereavement) but the young man refused it and played the game, winning the supporters admiration; captain material, already!
The first armband was gained at the Olympique Lyonnais, under former Lille’s coach Claude Puel: the french technician , now in Southampton, talked recently about that:” Hugo has a good level, good quality, character, and he’s a good captain” he said.”I’ve made him captain because he sets an example, inside and outside the ground.He always recognises the situation.”
Lloris current boss’ declaration after the custodian’s new deal is very similar:” Hugo is a top man, very professional, a natural leader, admitted Pochettino.All players and the other people respect him”.
Some others are thinking the contrary; Lloris is a well-beheaved young man, soft spoken and as a goalkeeper he can’t leave his place to help his team mates. There’s some truth in that, but the supporters at the stadium who can observe their goalie’s behaviour on the pitch, are better placed to judge, than those in front of their tv set.
Lloris is very vocal during the game, but also takes the few precious seconds before let’s say a free-kick in the opponent’s half to shout instructions to those up front. Sometimes when he’s not satisfied about the referee’s decisions, he talks calmly with the assistant or the referee when he leaves the pitch in the first half.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde… yes why not? Lyon’s and Nice’s supporters still remember his outburst at the end of the game in Nice(2-2) He was so furious against his lyonnais team mates who had let him down and used such a foul language that, the next day he had to present public apologies !
Did he change since….hmmm not really; he held the same language at the Euros, when France conceded a goal in the first half vs Ireland.The french won 2-1 but not before their captain’s speech( and foul language) put them in front of their responsabilities!
Last summer, the Nice born helped Les Bleus to reach the Euros 2016 Final: Ronaldo’s Portugal won the Cup but Lloris captained the team efficiently as usual.
Watching him so sure of himself talking to the medias or pushing his team mates to excellency, many of us, France’s faithful still remember the young timid man, brand new captain, who took the armband after the disastrous campaign in South Africa’s World Cup.
These were dark times for the french football; the players strike just before the crucial”last chance” game v the hosts was the last humiliation for the french people. Lloris was the youngest member of this disgraceful band , but when he was asked a year later why he agreed to that infamous strike, he answered that he had decided to be stupid with his teammates than clever and all alone. Anyhow it’s well-known that to change things it’s better to do it from inside.(and he did it !)
And how things have changed since then ! When Laurent Blanc the new coach gave him the armband, pundits and supporters alike were in great doubt concerning the young man’s ability to impose his views in a dressing room full of stars used to do whatever they wanted to .
Nevertheless between the “boss” and his new captain, there were several common points; both of them were discreet people, loyal and hard workers. Both of them were great supporters of “the beautiful game” and didn’t support fools gladly, nor players who played like “amateurs”!
When Didier Deschamps took over, Hugo kept his captaincy, for even if the new boss’ character was very different from his predecessor, the love of the game and the same principles -discipline, hard work, cohesion- made that these two continue to lead the french team; Deschamps’ aura and experience, plus Lloris’ supervision of the dressing room’s problems, helped Les Bleus to reach the Euro’s Final.
Maybe one day we’ll hail Lloris as the “new breed” of players/captains; but for now, the Frenchman is no more than a footballer…a man…and a captain !