Clermont Foot's Shamar Nicholson on the ball

Ligue 1 Meets: Shamar Nicholson

Ligue 1 Meets: Shamar Nicholson

Publish on 03/06 at 18:00 - E. DEVIN


Coming to Clermont and his adaptation, his strong bond with Samuel Gigot, Usain Bolt, the Jamaican national team and more, Reggae Boyz striker Shamar Nicholson tells his story.

How did you first hear about Clermont Foot?
From Maximiliano Caufriez, who was my teammate at Spartak Moscow. Last season he was on loan at Clermont and I followed what he was doing here. And this summer, before arriving, I called him to let him know that I was coming but he already knew!

And what did you know about Clermont before signing here?
When my agent told me the club was interested in me, I typed “Clermont” into Google, I didn’t ask anyone for information. I knew it was a Ligue 1 Uber Eats club, a league that I had followed in Jamaica. That's what pushed me to come. And when I arrived, my first impression was to tell myself that Clermont looked a lot like Charleroi, in Belgium, where I played for two years. It's a small, quiet town. There's not much to do but it's a good thing because you can concentrate on football (laughs).

“The main challenge was the weather.”

So having played in Belgium made your adaptation to France easier?
Yes, I was not surprised by what I found here, especially since when I was in Belgium, I had come to France several times. But there is definitely a big difference compared to Jamaica. There, there is always music, people talking together in the street... The culture is undoubtedly quite similar to that of Africa. The main difficulty in my adaptation to Europe was the weather. Food wise, it was okay. When I arrived in Europe, playing first in Slovenia then in Belgium, I could find pasta, or fried chicken, like in Jamaica. The real difference and the main challenge was the weather!

What about language?
Here, I'm lucky because many players speak English well: Mehdi Zeffane, Maximiliano Caufriez, Andy Pelmard... I can name many others.

What do you do in your free time?
As I was saying earlier, there aren't a lot of things to do here so I mainly spend time at home. I rest, I chat with my family, I listen to music... Reggae, dancehall, rap, afrobeat... Music is really important in my daily life.

“I remember Benzema, Drogba, Lacazette…”

Now to talk about the French league, what did you know about Ligue 1 Uber Eats before your arrival?
When I was younger, I watched this leagues and the Premier League too. In Jamaica, they broadcast the matches of the five major European championships so I knew the big French teams. But I had never seen Clermont matches (laughs). I remember Karim Benzema when he played in Lyon, Didier Drogba in Marseille, André Ayew as well… There was also Alexandre Lacazette before he left Lyon for Arsenal, Dimitri Payet… I also know that my compatriot Junior Flemmings played in France, in Toulouse, but he did not play in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, only in Ligue 2 BKT (11 matches with Toulouse and Niort).

Now that you are playing in France, do you feel that your status has changed in your country?
No, I was already famous in Jamaica (laughs)! If we take current Jamaican footballers, I am one of the best known. There may be Leon Bailey who is more famous than me but that’s it (laughs).

After only scoring one goal in your first 12 matches, you have scored 3 since the end of 2023. How do you explain this?
During my first months, I had several good matches in which I did not score but I created chances, I provided assists (two in my first four matches)... And later, I reaped the rewards of my work in pressing. I'm a team player, I fight, and that's what I was already doing in matches where I didn't score. These first months served to build the foundations of the goals that I subsequently set. And then, when you score, you gain confidence, efficiency…

You are the first Jamaican to score in Ligue 1 Uber Eats. What does this mean to you?
A lot! Maybe people think it doesn't mean much, but for me it's an accomplishment, an honor. Who knows? Maybe it will allow other Jamaican players to come and play in France in the future and it will be a little thanks to me.

“With Samuel Gigot, we created a strong bond”

Compared to what you experienced in Belgium or Russia, have you had to adapt your way of playing?
In each country, there are different qualities and weaknesses but, for me, there are no weaknesses in France. It’s a physical league where, sometimes, you can feel very tired after just 20 minutes because of the duels, the sprints… Then, here, you have to be able to concentrate for longer. I had to work on that.

Earlier, you were talking about your teammate Maximiliano Caufriez, with whom you had played already at Spartak Moscow. There, you also played with Samuel Gigot, whom faced on Saturday in Clermont-OM…
It was nice to see him again during the first leg in December even if, unfortunately, we lost (2-1). In Moscow, he was someone who welcomed me very well, who treated me very well. There, we both created a strong bond. Samuel is a very good guy and a very good defender. He has almost everything, but his main quality is his character. Even in training, it's tough going against him because he's always at full strength. In Moscow, he was my neighbor so we saw each other every day after training. We went to the restaurant together, we went to the golf course together… Well, he played, not me, so let’s say I accompanied him to the golf course!

“No one took the Jamaican team seriously”

Coming to the Jamaican team, in November, the Reggae Boyz qualified for the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Zone Nations League by beating Canada. In the double legged-tie, you scored three of the four Jamaican goals including a double in Toronto. Is this your best memory to date?
No, my best memory in the national team remains the day of my first selection, in 2017, against the United States. But this match in Toronto will also remain a great memory. In the CONCACAF zone, we achieved some results but no one took us seriously. In recent years, we have still managed to beat Mexico, the United States... But yes, Canada is one of the best selections in the region. They finished ahead of Mexico and the United States in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. Achieving what we achieved in Toronto means that we will be taken more seriously, but it is only the beginning.

During the next international break, the Jamaica team will play in the last four of the Nations League. Last summer, you also reached the semi-finals of the Gold Cup. Can we say that the national team is experiencing one of the best periods in its history?
Everyone talks about the 1998 team as the best since they qualified for the World Cup in France, the highest level in the world. It remains the best generation but some observers say that we perhaps have more talent. But it’s not talent that takes you far, it’s mentality, character.

What is the Jamaican team’s style of play?
We have fast players, especially on the wings. Above all, we are lucky to have a certain continuity since the youth teams like the first team play in the same system, a bit like Spain. But obviously, we don't have the same way of playing as the Spaniards. We rely a lot on the counter-attack.

Your coach, Heimir Hallgrímsson, is Icelandic, a combination you wouldn't necessarily expect...
He's a European coach and, personally, I've been playing in Europe for several years so his ideas don't surprise me. It may be different for players who have never left Jamaica but I haven't encountered the slightest problem with him and, since he took the job, I understand very well what he wants to put in place.

“The atmosphere in the national team is incredible”

The Jamaican team can count on several big names up front since in addition to you, there is Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and Demarai Gray. How do you get along?
We all have a common culture which allows us to create a sense of alchemy in the national team. Jamaican culture is about having fun, enjoying yourself... We like to sing, dance, make jokes... A bit like in Africa. All the players in the selection are on the same wavelength and the new ones integrate very quickly. Like others, Michail Antonio was not born in Jamaica but he has the same culture as us, he understands the vibe and we showed him love. We all get along very well. Even the players who are substitutes enjoy coming to the selection because the atmosphere there is incredible.

As you mentioned, Michail Antonio and many players in the current selection were born in England. Is this use of dual nationals recent?
It's been like this for a while, it's not new, but it's true that today it happens in a greater proportion than before. Where there were 5-6 English-born players in the squad before, there are now many more.

“I would like to be the top scorer for the national team”

You have scored 16 goals for the Jamaican team, which makes you the ninth-top scorer in the history of the team. Do you have a goal in terms of this?
Yes totally. The record holder, Luton Shelton, is a true legend. Everything he has done for our country is incredible (internationally between 2004 and 2013, he scored 35 goals). May he rest in peace but one day I would like to surpass him and be the top scorer in the selection...

If that ever happens, will we be able to call you the Usain Bolt of football?
I wouldn't say that (laughs). It’s funny but in Jamaica, they don’t care who you are. Just because you're a celebrity doesn't mean people will praise you. When people see me on the street in Jamaica, they sometimes ask me for a photo but that’s it. Most of the time, we don't chase you. It’s different from here in Europe (laughs).

Finally, can you tell us about your foundation?
It's not officially launched yet but we're getting closer to the goal. This foundation will aim to help as many children as possible to pursue their dreams, to finance their studies so that they can do what they want next, whether it is becoming doctors, teachers... Not everyone wants to become footballer (smiles)! We have been working with lawyers and different people for over a year to set up this foundation. I do things discreetly, in my corner, I'm not the type to bring the cameras to show me off, but we want to help as many kids as possible.


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