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Thursday, January 20 in Douala, a team was born. “She was just asking to be born”, emphasizes Patrice Beaumelle. The Ivory Coast coach led his men to a resounding 3-1 victory over reigning African champions Algeria in the final Group E match of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN).
One “reference match” for Elephants, according to Patrice Beaumelle. And a performance that opened the doors to the round of 16 on Wednesday January 26, against another great nation of continental football: Egypt.
Almost two years after his arrival on the bench and only two months after the elimination of the Ivorians in the race for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on the same ground in Douala, against Cameroon, the coach can breathe.
For the past few months, this 43-year-old Frenchman from Arles, the youngest coach of the CAN, has been criticized by Ivorian supporters for his tactical choices and the sometimes poor performance of a team that is nevertheless attractive on paper. “Before the defeat against Cameroon, we had not lost for thirteen months”would like to remind the coach.
“This group has a soul”
According to him, the benefits of the tournament are numerous for the collective: “With the players, this is the first time that we have spent so much time together outside and on the pitch. Before the CAN, we had never done more than three full training sessions because of the Covid. I always felt that this group had a soul. »
Long in the shadow of the charismatic Hervé Renard, of whom he was assistant coach from 2008 to 2019 in several selections on the continent, Patrice Beaumelle lives in Cameroon, his first major international competition as head coach. But the African Cup of Nations no longer has many secrets for him. Alongside Mr. Renard, he took part in six AFCONs and won two. With Zambia in 2012 and Côte d’Ivoire in 2015, already.
During this long period, he has donned the tunic of title coach on a few occasions, for the Zambian Chipolopolos in 2014 and the Moroccan Atlas Lions in 2019. But these two experiences were cut short by his professional choices in Zambia, then the lack of results in Morocco.
After the title of the Elephants in 2015, Hervé Renard signed in Lille and the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) offered the position of coach to Patrice Beaumelle, who preferred to follow his mentor to whom he had given his word. In 2019, the paths of the two men separate. “It’s time for him to stand on his own two feetsaid Hervé Renard in an interview with the World. He has already coached Zambia for a few months and he has all the qualities to be a number 1. “
“Passionate about coaching”
Knighted by Hervé Renard, he was recalled by Sidy Diallo, the president of the FIF at the time, anxious to attract a connoisseur of Ivorian football. Patrice Beaumelle accepts the position and begins his contract in March 2020. “I am not an opportunist. I was not looking to be number 1 for my ego, I seek above all to experience emotionshe confides. But from the moment I had experienced the World Cup with Morocco and won two CAN out of six participations, I told myself that I had nothing to envy to the greatest. It was time. »
The coach, who describes himself as “competitive and relentless to win”started as an amateur player in Nîmes, before training at a very young age in the coaching professions. “I have always been passionate about coaching. I was a good little player, but I graduated very quickly as a sports teacher and as a football coach.explains the Frenchman.
He will experience his first professional emotions at the age of 25 as a physical trainer at Montpellier Hérault, at the time in Ligue 2, before becoming assistant to Régis Brouard at Nîmes Olympique, in National, then being called by Hervé Renard on departure. for Zambia. “I immediately accepted. I didn’t know what the conditions were, but it was exciting.”he admits.
Like Hervé Renard, Patrice Beaumelle wears the white shirt on the sidelines, makes fiery speeches in the locker room and lives in the countries he trains, unlike some foreign coaches.
“He is a very psychologist”
“You can’t do more than a decade with someone without looking a bit alike, that’s for sure. At one point, a single look was enough for us to understand each other, it was a magical complicity. We have the same passion and the same philosophy, but we are very different in personality”, he emphasizes. Surprisingly, the two men lost sight of each other. A scramble? Patrice Beaumelle will say nothing about it. And contacted, Hervé Renard did not wish to answer our questions.
Close to his players, we say he listens. “He is a very psychologist, he knows how to protect themobserves Fernand Dédeh, an Ivorian sports journalist who lives the continental competition as close as possible to the Elephants. When goalkeeper Ali Badra Sangaré makes a mistake against Sierra Leone [un ballon relâché qui offre le but de l’égalisation (2-2) à ses adversaires], he is devastated. But Beaumelle was able to talk to him in the locker room, he wrapped a blanket around him, told him that it happened to all goalkeepers. »
After nearly two years at the head of the Elephants, Patrice Beaumelle is gradually imposing his paw and realizes it: “Head coach is another profession. You are more exposed, it is pleasant too, but it is trying, you have to always make yourself available. It’s fascinating and I haven’t done the trick at all. »