Ahead of the clash between former clubs PSG and OL, France legend Ludovic Giuly, who is currently assistant to Laurent Blanc and in charge of strikers at OL, gave a 'First Time' interview to Ligue 1.fr.
Giuly's former clubs PSG and OL face off in Ligue 1 Uber Eats Round 29's headline clash on Sunday night...
Ludovic, what is your first memory of football?
"I went to the stadium almost every day. My father was a goalkeeper so he often took me with him to the Chasselay club, where I started at the age of four. I didn't even watch the games at the time, I was just happy to be able to play. I loved being a goalkeeper, I wanted my mates to hit them into the corners so I could dive into the mud."
Was goalkeeper your first job?
"I used to play goalkeeper with my mates but my dad always told me I shouldn't be in goal. When I was 5-6 years old, we didn't know how tall I was going to be, but my mother and father weren't very tall, so of course... My father wanted me to be an outfield player. I was already going fast and running around. But as soon as I had the chance, and I still do when I play with friends, I take the gloves and get into the goal. I love it."
Ali Bouafia, Michael Jordan and OL
And your first jersey?
"One day, I was at the racetrack in Lyon with my father and there were some OL players, including Ali Bouafia. We had a little chat with him and I ended up asking him for his shirt. Well, it was probably my father because I was very shy. Ali Bouafia said to me: 'Come to Gerland on Wednesday and I'll give you my shirt'. That day, I was training at OL and the weather was terrible. It was raining like crazy, there was a storm. I never imagined that he would remember me and the thing about the shirt. I arrived soaked in front of the pros' dressing room and saw Ali Bouafia, who told me to come with him. He handed me a towel and then gave me a red RTL jersey in cotton fleece, with his No.9 on it. I kept it for years. I was 12 years old and it was the first real jersey I ever owned. But I've never been a fan of anyone except Michael Jordan."
Was he your first idol?
"Definitely. The only poster I had in my room was a Michael Jordan poster. I'm not a basketball geek, but he impressed me. When I watched him play, I was captivated by his jumps. It felt like he was flying."
What was the first club you supported?
"OL, of course, because I am from Lyon. The club was in the second division at the time. I didn't go to Gerland very often and I didn't watch the games much because I wanted to be on the pitch. I didn't want to be a spectator, I wanted to play. When I was at the OL youth academy, we could get tickets to see the senior team. There was a great atmosphere but what interested me was being on the pitch."
Do you remember your first time in a stadium?
"I don't remember exactly, but it was an OL match in the late 1980s. I especially remember the change of references. When you're a kid, you play in your village stadium so you know everything by heart and there's nobody watching you. Here, the stadium is big, the pitch is huge, the players are tall... It's a new dimension. It impressed me."
Patrick Vieira, 'the best day of my life' and superstition
When did you first realise that you had the potential to turn pro?
"I never said that to myself. But when I was 15-16 years old, something clicked. We won the championship with the OL youth team, so it became serious. And the following year, we won the Gambardella Cup. That's when I said to myself that I had to give everything."
What memories do you have of your first professional match?
"I was a substitute in a league match against Cannes [in January 1995]. I came on with about 20 minutes to go and bumped into Patrick Vieira. I didn't know who he was but he was tall... I have an image in my head of me running after him to take the ball..."
What about your first goal as a professional?
"I scored a goal in a friendly during a pre-season camp at high altitude. I scored a crazy goal, a beautiful shot from distance after a corner, and it was the best day of my life. My father must still have the article. I told Ghislain Anselmini: 'It's the best day of my life'. And in an official match, I think I scored my first goal against Rennes - I scored twice [OL had gone 2-2 at Gerland after being 2-0 down]."
What was the first thing you did when coming onto the pitch?
"I always did the same thing. I would enter with my left foot, take three steps, jump with my left foot and land, then do the same with my right foot and accelerate. Why would I do that? I don't know. The acceleration allowed me to know if I was feeling good or not. And when I was really good, I even zigzagged."