Today settled in Benin, where he is, at 71, the manager of Coton Sport FC, Victor Zvunka will be in front of his TV on Friday evening to see his former Berrichonne challenge PSG in the 32nd finals of the Coupe de France. Obviously special for the one who was on the castelroussin bench during the final of the event lost in 2004 against the Parisian club. Nostalgia interview.
Interview by Maxime Brigand
01/06/2023 – 21:00
If you had the opportunity to highlight a moment from May 29, 2004, which one would it be?
A simple moment, but which is still etched in my memory. I’m sitting on the ground, my back against one of the Stade de France posts, overcome by disappointment. A little less than twenty years later, I still have not seen this final. I refuse to do it because I am still convinced that this match, we must win it. At the time, it undermined me because I won the Coupe de France with OM in 1976. So I know what a victory in this competition means, the joy it can bring to the supporters who have made traveling to Paris…
How did you prepare it?
We had left two days before, going green, in Chantilly. Looking back, I think it was maybe a bit too early. We put extra pressure on ourselves, which was probably a bit heavy to bear. We wanted to get out of the frame a bit, we went to see the stables, we went for a walk, and I think everyone got a bit scattered. Despite that, the group prepared well for this match, even if we had to face several small events. Between the semi-final against Dijon and this final against PSG, we had five championship days, including one in Istres, where Sébastien Roudet slammed, and one in Saint-Étienne, where Marc Giraudon, my starting left-back, breaks the tendon. Marc-Éric Gueï also had a car accident on the road between Châteauroux and the training center. Physically, the group therefore did not arrive in Paris in its best conditions, and I was unable to field my standard team. It’s like that, it’s also part of football, like the discovery of such an emotionally significant event. In the starting lineup, only Teddy Bertin and Jimmy Algerino had already experienced a final.
“The opportunity to play in a Coupe de France final when you are the Berrichonne from Châteauroux, it does not pass fifty times. »
What impact did it actually have in your opinion? During the final, the group was never really inhibited.
No, but on several sequences, we lost our sense of the collective. I found the boys more greedy on certain gestures, which we sometimes tried to highlight more individually than collectively. Yet it was our unity that helped us eliminate Monaco in the quarter-finals, then Dijon behind… And I’ll say it again: it’s all the more frustrating that we had chances to score in this final .
All was not so smooth in the course. In particular, there is a match in Valencia, where…
… where it’s a small miracle. (Laughs.) We were led twice, we were up to the penalty shootout and it was Roméo Calenda, a former Berri player, who missed the penalty shootout that qualified us for the round of 16. There are seasons like this when events turn on your side. In the round of 16, we play Créteil, which has a B team. Behind, we play AS Monaco, and even if it’s a feat, it was above all in the lead of its journey in the Champions League. Then for the semi-final, we are still lucky in the draw because in the salad bowl, there is PSG, Nantes and Dijon. I remember listening to the draw on the radio and I can see myself hearing Nantes, praying not to hear our name because I didn’t want to go outside… It was finally PSG who fell and behind it, c is us. Perfect, we receive Dijon, which is at the time in National, and I jump for joy.
Behind, it’s the match of the year. For the club, the city is almost the meeting of a lifetime. We can’t crash. The opportunity to play in the Coupe de France final when you are the Berrichonne of Châteauroux, it does not pass fifty times. You really can’t imagine how I prepared for this match… I’ve never prepared a match like that. I went to see Dijon five times, at the stadium, I noted all the combinations of play, everything, everything, everything. This match was played three years after an elimination with Lausanne against Yverdon in the semi-finals of the Swiss Cup. I didn’t want to go through that again. I hadn’t prepared it well enough and for Dijon, I went all out. Result, we folded it in half time with a Roudet on fire, in an armored Gaston-Petit … Magic. This is also why I have this regret for the final of not having been able to have Roudet at 100%, but it served me for the future. For the course with Guingamp in 2009, I managed the players a lot more.
You talk a lot about a chain of happy events, but this band has always had a strong spirit, too.
Yes, because its history is strong. We must not forget that the Berrichonne did not go far from filing for bankruptcy in the early 2000s. They came back to get me in 2003, I accepted because I had ties, a link with this club, this first great experience… We formed a group on it, with our resources, a few veterans like Jimmy Algerino, locals. We tinkered with something and it took off well, even if at the base, we just wanted to have a decent season. Moreover, we made this final in 2004, but the following season, we did not go so far from moving up to Ligue 1, with an even bigger team.
“Today, as soon as I have a moment of freedom, I go to Châteauroux. »
Do you now understand the link you managed to create with Châteauroux, a town where you had no ties?
It’s strange, it’s true, but I immediately felt good with everyone. At one point, I was playing with a few veterans in a veterans’ team, we all ate together… In total, I still coached the club for more than 150 games. There were ups, downs, shouting matches, joys, and today, as soon as I have a moment of freedom, I go to Châteauroux. I walk around the city, everyone knows me, whereas the first time I came, I didn’t know anything. I had just come to play twice when I was a player at Matra Racing: once in the Summer Cup, another when we moved up to D1, in 1984. Our last match was played at Châteauroux. We win 4-0, we go back to the locker room, we think we finish champions of our pool, but in the meantime, Tours equalizes against Dunkirk, and we have to make the play-offs. We still managed to climb, but it was my first link with the Berrichonne. When I was in Laval, I also happened to drive through Châteauroux. I often slept on the outskirts of town when I returned to Marseille.
What remains today of the pride of having brought the whole city to Paris?
A great joy, but there is also a small disappointment, which I still cannot explain to myself. We made this Coupe de France final, but I had the feeling that the town hall did not fully take the measure of this event, of what we were able to bring to an entire city, an entire region. The day after the final, we arrived at Gaston-Petit, 50 supporters were waiting for us in the parking lot, but no reception. Nothing. Goodbye, see you next year. It stuck in my throat. When you know what happened in other cities like Calais, Quevilly… There was a party despite the defeat. With us, there was nothing. Everything stopped very suddenly, very coldly. Finally, the real party will have been after the semi-final: we walked around Châteauroux very late, we went to a nightclub…
Have you reviewed or reread things about this adventure in recent days?
I saw that the club had made a small series with old, in particular Armindo Ferreira. This is the first time I’ve seen images of the final. So I thought back to the occasions we were talking about earlier. For example, I reviewed Algerino’s shot late in the game that Letizi comes out well. I also reviewed the turning point of the match, the fact that the corner which led to Pauleta’s goal came following an error of judgment by Wissam El Bekri. Then I redid the thread. The day before the game, the guys were in the locker room and taking pictures. They said to themselves: “In 1998, there was such a guy in this place…” I also remember that our doctor had been taking penalties on the pitch. We were in our little dream, what. (Laughs.) A scene also came to mind: at half-time in the final, I leave the locker room, I want to go to the toilet and in the shower, I see El Bekri recovering from the gel. Behind, he made this fatal mistake. I gave him an oatmeal. (Laughs.) Small flashes have returned in recent days, small details, small scenes. For example, I also saw myself asking the referee to give Ljuboja a card because I had noticed that he was wearing a small necklace… But hey, he had nothing to do with Zvunka and the Berrichone.
Did you feel small?
Yes, of course, but it makes sense. Opposite us was PSG. We were a little disturbed that we were there. I’m still convinced that they were at their wit’s end, they fought hard to finish second in the championship, we had a gift to open… But hey, we can rewrite the history of the hours: we lost. We were affected at the time, but the disappointment a few days later is not the same as when you lose against a team of your level. It still bonded us for life and we still had great moments together: two UEFA Cup matches against Bruges, the 5-5 in Troyes… In the end, I experienced almost everything with this club.
That is true. The D1, the D2, the National, Europe, an epic, extraordinary seasons, with extraordinary players: Lachuer, Mayélé, Dufresne, Adam… The season for the title of second division champion, in 1996-1997, was the most beautiful. Sometimes it felt like the guys had been playing together for years, it was telepathic. I even think that this team was stronger than the one that played in D1 the following season.
What is your relationship with the club today?
I continue to follow the Berrichonne closely, here in Benin. I still regularly have my local friends on the phone. I continue to read the local newspapers. I am very disappointed to see the club where it is today. Châteauroux is the second division. There, what is also sad is that the fan base has died down a bit. I believe more generally that we will never see again what we have seen. We still saw Algerino, Fernandez, Bertin, Mboma, Roudet, Mansouri pass… Châteauroux will no longer attract this kind of phenomena. Football has changed, players prefer to go abroad, no longer necessarily want to be loaned. The last talent apart that the club has seen pass is Saïd Benrahma. This match against PSG brings us back a bit of nostalgia, that of a club that we love, that we want to see come back to the fore, even if it will be complicated. I’m still going to try to find it on TV here, even if PSG has never brought me luck: this final, another defeat with Gueugnon at the Parc in 2007 when we were dominating, Hoarau had chances to to qualify… It wasn’t for me. (Laughs.)
Interview by Maxime Brigand