“When the coach makes me go into the finals, I explode physically!”

France Bleu Azur: What image does this 97 final illustrate for you?

Thierry Crétier: When I have the trophy in my hands. It really is the symbol of that night’s success and a relief in this failed season. We were going down to Ligue 2. So there we offered ourselves a parenthesis of happiness. And seeing the happy faces in the stands, our families, our friends, was amazing.

That night marked several generations of followers …

Yes quite. It’s pretty fun, by the way. I’ve come across a lot of people from Nice lately who tell me about their adventures to see this finale. By train, by bus … We were not aware of this madness at the time we were in our bubble. When they talk to me about it today, they still have the flame, it’s still a good memory for everyone.

Did this enthusiasm allow you to transcend yourself in this finale?

Yes it is undeniable. We lead in the scoring, then Guingamp equalizes, and there we should be solid in the head. We had the resources to endure overtime, and that’s also thanks to this enthusiasm.

I had a slight feeling of sadness before the match

On the personal level, you return a few moments before the equalizer. Do you feel cursed at this point?

Yes I told myself they were just waiting for my return to settle! The reality is that I am not physically ready at all when the coach picks me up. When I go to warm up, I find myself next to Jean-Luc Vannuchi, trained in Nice, who was playing at Guingamp at the time. We had spent 5 years together at the gym and we were just talking instead of warming up! So when the coach brings me in, I explode physically! I had a lot of trouble getting into the match … In addition, it was a final that I was hoping to play, I had started the season as a starter. I had a slight feeling of sadness before the match. But when we first come back, we give everything and forget everything!

This penalty shootout next. Were you ready to shoot if the session was extended?

I was not scheduled to shoot, but we had prepared a lot the weeks before. We had chained penalty shootouts for safety. But the fatal accident the only one missing with us is Louis Gomis, who was certainly the most accurate in this exercise. So I think there is no truth. If I had to go, I would have gone! I definitely would have shaken a little!

When the last shot on goal is scored, do you remember the scene?

Yes, I address myself directly to my family, my friends in the gallery. And then we make a huge sprint with the whole team against this red-black tribune, behind Bruno Valencony’s goal. I remember this community, this explosion of joy.

My wife kept one of the two jerseys from the finals

Olivier Fugen says he threw sweaters and shorts at the fans. Did you keep the shirt you were wearing?

Yes at that time we were entitled to two jerseys. I know my wife kept one and the other I had to give away. I still have the trophy at home, in miniature. I’m not too materialistic, but lately it’s true that I’ve looked a lot at the pictures from this finale. And on the internet I came across a picture with Fred Gioria under the Arc de Triomphe, we have the trophy in our hands, it must be 6 o’clock in the morning. Reminiscent of a great evening.

A memorable evening it looks like …

Yes we let go we will say. We were lucky that the club organized everything, the evening, the meal, all the families were there, the friends. It really is a beautiful party, we had a good laugh. We needed to find together after this trying season. There was a kind of decompression, it was fabulous. There were a few cigars, a few glasses … Well, the problem is that the next day we were invited to Téléfoot with the trophy … and it was a little hard to stay serious!

And the return to Nice?

Total happiness! I remember it raining, but when we saw this world we were really surprised, it was great to share this with so many people from Nice! And then the presentation of the Cup was something. We handed the trophy to Ray against Metz. I knew it was my last season after ten years at the club. A great moment of emotion.

My best memory? The increase in 1994

Is this the best sports memory of your career?

One of the best yes. The best thing for me is the rise in D1 in 1994 with kids from the club. We were 13 or 14 players from the center of the squad. A truly amazing year to live and an opportunity for us to play and mark the history of the club. We had a close-knit group and we knew we would stick to the last to bring the club back to D1. The cup victory is a step down because the season has been a bit complicated for me. But it’s a trophy and it’s unforgettable.

Today it is your son Noah who defends the colors of the club …

Yes, I’m very proud to see him wear this jersey. We will both go to the final at the Stade de France and I hope with all my heart that we win this Cup to really launch this new project!

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