September 19, 2017
Youssoupha: "OGC Nice get you excited"
"I saw a Marseille – Nice, once at the Vélodrome. I didn't know that it was that feisty...." Confidence is left to one side, during the chat. A gold and platinum disk Rapper, producer, a man of words and of battles, Youssoupha (38 years old) came to Charles-Ehrmann on Tuesday, his black glasses placed on his nose and a likeable face. A football fanatic, the beIN SPORTS pundit spoke to Malang Sarr, in a piece which will be shown on Monday. Used to dodging, picking, directing, accelerating, "the bantou lyricist", originally from Paris has a certain affinity with OM, (chauvinism obliges), on this occasion tempered it in order to give us his vision of the Gym. Of the king of sports, and the mix he has created with rap.
"I hope that it works for OGC Nice in the long run, that way they will inspire people"
Youssoupha, can you explain what brings you to attend a Gym training session in the middle of the week?
As I love football, I often appear on beIN SPORTS. This season, as part of a new programme, we are meeting players. Often youngsters. The profile of Malang Sarr jumped out at us, because there are lot of things to say about him, and he also has a lot of things to tell. He is making his mark, has hit the heights, has hit some hitches, and has held on. It has become rare for a player to break through at their own club, so it is cool to start with him here, at the training ground. It's not too bad here, but, apparently, the new one, it's something else...
If you had to write a song about your meeting with Malang, what would you call it?
"Neighbourhoods at the summit". Because in truth, we found each other in this kind of trajectory. People often say that football "makes millionnaires". For me, what I like, is that it remains one of very few environments in which we judge the real value of youngsters who come from difficult backgrounds and who succeed in breaking through, to have a status and a recognition for what they do. There aren't many areas, when you think about it, be it in technology, medicine, engineering (…), where the social elevator works as well as it does in football. Therefore, the examples of youngsters, at the Gym or elsewhere, who succeed, interests me and has an effect on me. Somewhere, even though it isn't exactly the same life, it reminds me of where I came from. I have a lot of respect for that.
What do you make of the Red and Blacks?
They get you excited, especially over the last 2, 3 or 4 years. Before, I knew them as everybody else did: with periods of instability in its management and inconsistent performances on the pitch. So nowadays, you get the idea that the club has modernised. There is continuity at board level, a new stadium, a new training ground, some good buys in the transfer market.. Sneijder is here, Balotelli and Dante too, we see lots of good football, it's fresh! What is happening here, it's good. The club lights up L1, I hope for the club that it will last. And then, what I have noticed in training, is that there are lots of youngsters from the academy who are training with the pros. It's a story that seems to focus on continuity, a great approach. I hope that they will succeed, because when that happens, it can create a real emulation. On the other hand, if it doesn't work, we hear straightaway "that you can't put your confidence in the youngsters". I hope that at OGC Nice it works in the long term, that way they will inspire people
If we spoke to you about the Gym from before, what comes to mind?
There was a player that I liked a lot, like a lot of people, it's Ederson (Niçois from 2005 until 2008). We saw him as the best player here. Then, he left to go to Lyon, it was a bit more complicated, but he is one of the biggest Brazilian talents to have graced L1. I also think of Balmont (at the Gym from 2004 until 2008): a classic league player, with the behaviour to go with it. I also think of the pictures of Bosetti (left this summer to Laval) in the stand, that stood out for me.
What do the people of Nice give during concerts?
It is good. But I think they are less up for it than what we are used to seeing at the Ray or in the Allianz. There is the Palace (Nikaia), then little concert venues: it's a huge atmosphere, that makes you want to go to the stadium. So when I come back in concert, I will be even more demanding.
"Rap and football love each other and are fascinated about the other"
Rapper and football pundit: this combination seems logical...
(Laughs) I don't know. Rapper, that is my main profession. The one that allows me to earn a living, and above all, my first love. It is what fills my head each day. Football remains recreational. I speak about it as a fan, not like an ex-footballer (which I am certainly not), nor like a kind of "specialist-expert" (I know that there are a lot of them on social networks). I like approaching football from an everyday person's point of view, with my subjectivity. I am more curious than anything else. Curious about the life of a team, of clubs, of the stories that surround it, the feelings that players have.
What do you mean by football from an "everyday person's point of view"?
Today, I am at the Nice training ground, there is Lucien Favre and the fitness coaches not far from me... I would be embarrassed to try to put on my expert hat when just a few metres away, I have guys like that. So I speak with my sensitivity. I have no certainty and I am clear about that. No idea or feeling about systems, just my sensitivity about the players. I watch matches, I react, I discuss. I like speaking about it with those around, with those that I know and that are my friends, with those who watch the TV or other media.
What is the relationship between rap and football?
The two love each other. Rappers are fascinated about football, lots wanted to be footballers, but with very little success. Lots will say to you "that they were that far from becoming a footballer", it's generally a lie (he laughs). "I was only that far from a call from Domenech too", but for a local league. Aside from that, footballers listen to a lot of rap. Especially the new generation of the last 5, 10 or 15 years. There is a direct link and both are a bit attracted by the other. That's what has brought me here too...
Who depends more on the other?
Often, we criticise footballers, in their image, as soon as we see on social media, that they listen to rap. To move, to get "in the mood". We say straight away that they are losing their heads, that rap is distracting them. In truth, the rappers don't show it much, but they are a bit more fascinated by the lives and style of lives that the players can have. It would seem like we control the footballers, but not at all. It is the footballers who interest us.
"I would take the place of Mendy or Cyprien"
You must have some colleagues who are good with the ball though?
Yes, there are a couple. Gradur isn't bad, I have already played with him. Sefyu too. However, as I said, there are certain guys who lie a bit. (Laughs) I will have to say: R.E.D.K from Marseille will maybe read this interview, I thought that he was better than that. We played five-a-side one day, he disappointed me.
Despite his song "Simple Constat 5" which talks about football?
These "simple phrases" are extraordinary. It's like Messi "rapologically". But on the pitch, he isn't Messi. It's alright, nothing more, I would give him a C+...
What position do you play?
Generally, 6 or 8. I always watch midfielders. So if I had to take the place of somebody from OGC Nice, I would take Papy Mendy's place. I like the roles where you can influence. Well no, I would like to score a few more than him, because at the end of the day I am a rapper. I like it when people sing my praises, when I am seen. So I would say a bit more like Cyprien.
Left or right?
I will break the myth, because the football fanatic that I am, I would have liked to be left-footed. Because of the legend that is Maradona, you see? But no. In truth, I write with my left hand, I kick with my right and I am very bad with my left.
You were born in Kinshasa and lived in Paris for most of your life: what image do you have of the city of Nice?
It's quite special. At the same time, there's this image of the "Riviera", very chic, very posh and a bit overrated. And then you also have the image of the neighbourhoods. So, from not being in the city, you can struggle to find the middle ground. I played a concert in the remand centre about 5 or 6 years ago. I do that quite a lot, but that was the first time. By speaking to certain inmates who came from neighbourhoods, they told me a bit more about their lives here. I realised that the city has more nuances than it first lets on from the outside. But it's a city that I think has a lot more to discover. I don't doubt that.
What are your future plans?
This year, I have spent most of my time producing for kids who are doing well at the moment. I have spent a lot of time touring, I started on beIN SPORTS, I have done lots of things... except for albums for me. I think I will fix that soon though.
C.D. (photos Y.F.)