Antoine Kombouaré, Nantes
Ligue 1 Show

'Nantes are unique' - Antoine Kombouaré

'Nantes are unique' - Antoine Kombouaré

Ligue 1 Show
Publish on 09/04 at 07:45 - S. TELFORD


Tall, vocal, demanding, and fiercely competitive, Antoine Kombouaré is a monument of the French game. The former FC Nantes boss sat down for an exclusive interview on the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS.

Now in his 20th season in the dugout, the man from New Caledonia is doing a remarkable job at FC Nantes, the club where it all began for him, initially as a commanding defender, back in 1983.


When Kombouaré took charge as Nantes coach in February 2021, les Canaris were sitting 18th and in disarray. Sixteen months on, the club is bracing itself for its first foray into Europe for 20 years.


Kombouaré: 'the club was dying'


"When I arrived the club was dying, there's no other way of putting it," Kombouaré told the Ligue 1 Show. "There was tension everywhere, between the fans and the board. We were at the bottom. I was the fourth coach of the season! That tells its own story.



"Our main aim was to get confidence back. We really worked on the mental side. We wanted the players to feel like they could express their quality - because they do have quality. We saw that the following season. With the same team that almost went down, we won the Coupe de France the next year. For the players, a lot is in the head."


Cup glory


For the Nantes faithful, last season was a sweet and overdue reminder of the club's glory days. Les Canaris secured a top-half finish and, above all, claimed the club's first silverware since 2001 by beating OGC Nice in the Coupe de France final.


"A lot of pride, to see the Stade de France three quarters full of Nantes fans," Kombouaré reflected of the final. "There were 60,000 of them! Above all, you're happy because you can see people who are proud to be FC Nantes fans, and nothing can beat that feeling. It made me realise how privileged I am to be able to experience that. 


Nantes fans


"To win a trophy with my first club, but above all to make people happy. We have a team that can stir emotions and above all make people happy. It's unique."


The transformation under Kombouaré has been extraordinary. Through straight-talking, brilliant man-management and hard work, the former Paris Saint-Germain boss rejuvenated an entire football club.


Kombouaré: 'runs through my veins'


"I coach with what runs through my veins," Kombouaré continued. "I'm from the Pacific Islands, where the notion of family, of living together, is crucial, so before talking about the technical, tactical, physical side of football, for me it's about two men - the coach and his player - standing face to face and opening up to one another, and deciding to take on a challenge .


"For one season, whatever situation the club is in, we're going to stick together. We're going on this journey together, and there will be mutual respect and above all loyalty. That's important because I'm loyal to them. Once you've created those foundations, then you can get to work."


Watch: Highlights of Nantes' 3-1 win over Toulouse

Kombouaré knows that maintaining the standards of last season will be tough. Last weekend's 3-1 win over Toulouse FC augured well, even if they were beaten 3-0 by PSG on Saturday. European football returns to the Stade de La Beaujoire with the visit of Olympiacos in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.


'A huge challenge'


"It's a huge challenge. Nantes haven't played in Europe for more than 20 years, so this is exceptional; we're the minnows because we're discovering Europe, but at the same time we want to create surprises and claim some scalps.


"It's going to be very interesting to see how we get on in Europe, but we'll have to keep our focus on the league too. Four teams are getting relegated this season, and let's not forget that until recently Nantes were battling to stay up every season. So it could be tough for us and that's something we must never forget."