Caen - Nice
August 16, 2018
“A nice nod to destiny”
On Saturday in Caen, the Nice defence will be confronted by a unique centre forward. Unique through his links to Nice, the city where he was born and trained. Through his career, the man who combined jobs as a waiter and security guard in Calvi, alongside his amateur career. At 29 years old, Malik Tchokounte discovered the world of Ligue 1 last weekend, in the Parc des Princes. The emblematic forward of the Selecioun, he is now preparing to face the Gym, in his debut at Michel-d’Ornano.
How does a Niçois prepare for a match against the Gym?
In the same way as always… it’s a source of pleasure, it’s a nice nod to destiny, that’s for sure. But I am very calm. We will see what happens on the pitch on Saturday evening.
You grew up in Nice…
Between Gorbella, Saint-Lambert, Cessole… Always in the north of Nice, yes. I went to school at Von Derwies, high school at Valéri, then to Parc Impérial before studying at the academy. In terms of football, I started out straight away with OGC Nice, behind the Ray. I did all of the age groups there. At U18s, I left the club for the first time. At the end of a season in Cavigal, René Marsiglia and Fred Gioria, who at that time were in charge of the reserves, brought me back. I progressed a lot with them, but objectively, I didn’t have the level needed to turn pro. From my age group, only Anthony Modeste, Mahamane Traore and Jimmy Roye (Niort, Gazélec) managed it. So in 2008, I left the club for good, but without regrets.
In August 2009, when you signed for Calvi in the Fifth Division, what was your objective?
To play football, because that’s what I love. And to see where that would take me. I wasn’t obsessed by professional football.
Season after season, you continued to rise through the leagues...
I got down to work. And every time, I adapted well. I was given opportunities, and I took them. First with Dunkerque (National) then with Paris FC, who I played with in Ligue 2 last season. And this summer, I joined Caen.
“Romain (Genevois) and I often speak about Nice”
What is different about a club that’s in Ligue 1?
The infrastructures, the means, the number of people working with the team. We spend a lot more time at the training ground. Full days on a regular basis. This is now the club’s 5th consecutive season in Ligue 1, it has stabilised too. And I have fallen into a good squad. I am confident that we can do some great things.
In training, you have the opportunity to play alongside a certain Romain Genevois…
Exactly (laughs). A good defender and a great guy, who loved his time with Nice. We talk about it regularly...
How did you find your debut in Ligue 1, at the Parc des Princes?
I was happy to play, to discover the top flight. But it didn’t affect me any more than usual. I didn’t get caught up in the glitter of it, or by the players on the other side, or by the environment. I needed to remain fully concentrated.
“They would like me to score, but for the Gym to win”
Less than two years ago, you were in the stands to cheer on the Gym…
I thought about it afterwards, yes. Especially when a photo came out (see below). Of course, it’s special. But I didn’t think about it until the days after Paris – Caen. On matchday, I was incredibly focused.
With one week until Caen – Nice, has your phone been ringing more than usual?
Yes, of course! I am receiving lots of messages of support. My friends from Nice would like me to score but for the Gym to win (laughs).
You didn’t break through at the Gym, but the Niçois know you from your time with the Selecioun, with whom you won the ConIFA World Cup* in 2014…
A big - very big - moment. I will never forget it. It was a huge source of pride for me to represent the Comté. They weren’t teammates, but mates, friends. A unique adventure, that I wouldn’t have been able to experience elsewhere.
To celebrate your title, you were introduced to the crowd at the Allianz Riviera, before Nice – Toulouse…
During the lap of honour, I said to myself that I would like to play there one day. And I have a chance of doing so this year (the weekend of 20 April 2019). It’s great…
How many tickets will you need?
Lots! I am relying on you (laughs)!
*On 8 June 2014, the “Selecioun”– a team exclusively made up of players who were born in the former territory of the Comté de Nice – won the ConIFA World Cup in Sweden, a tournament that brought together non FIFA affiliated “nations”.