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Moussilou: "People told me I was a black cat"

Interview

April 29, 2021

Moussilou: "People told me I was a black cat"

He calls his time at OGC Nice a failure. A failure that he managed to overcome in order to (re)build his game that, years later, gives him the necessary perspective to talk about his career without bitterness. Having scaled the heights at Lille, "the club of my heart", when he burst through as a professional, Matt Moussilou has never really broken his links with OGC Nice, despite the lows following his difficult spell on the Côte d'Azur, where his career was meant to take off. Before Saturday's match, he picked up his phone to speak about his adventure at Nice, and the consequences it had on his subsequent life…

We should state it from the start, looking back at a difficult past never comes without apprehension. Nevertheless, before Lille - Nice, it was worth a phone call… After a message like that found in a bottle thrown into the sea, the uncertainty fades with a simple: "With pleasure to talk about Nice! I have some good memories of my time there, especially in friendship terms, with people at the club." Fifteen years on, Matt Moussilou, 38, accepted dusting off an old book: that of his younger years. And the first intonations of his voice back up what his fingers had typed in the message. At the other end of the line, the voice is simple, engaging, full of humility. It belongs to a father of 3 children who is still playing football, at FC Meyrin (Swiss D4) and who is preparing to become a forwards coach, a role that will fit him like a glove: "You know, I always use my spell at Nice as a reference when I talk to my players," he explains from the off. "Because it's a good example of doubts that need to be overcome. I never speak to them of what I did well at Lille. Because at the end of the day, the 6 difficult months at the Gym, that felt like an eternity to me, have been useful to me my whole life."

"With my team-mates, we couldn't believe it"

To better understand that "eternity", it's enough to give him a starting point. In the summer of 2006, Moussilou signed for the Gym. After starring for Lille (39 goals in 139 matches between 1999 and 2006), where the competition for places was becoming ever stiffer, the former France Under-21s forward was looking for a made to measure project. And the Aiglons ticked all the boxes: "I had spoken to the coach Antonetti, and I was convinced that everything would go well. There were some really good creative players and it was a fine team. I had a firm belief that everything would work out."


The faith was reciprocated as the rouge et noir club broke the bank in order to sign the powerful forward, capable of eating up space and at ease in front of goal. Moussilou knew the expectations and that everything he did would be watched closely. He was meant to help the Gym, finalists in the previous season's Coupe de la Ligue and 8th in Ligue 1, kick on. But the previous season, sublime and cruel, had left its mark. Despite 3 straight wins to finish off the league season, following the final lost to Nancy, Nice struggled at the start of the new season. The first win didn't come until 7 matches into the season, against Valenciennes (2-0), when they were bottom of the table. Signed in order to dynamite the attack, Moussilou couldn't buy a goal: "Frankly, I had horrendous luck," he remembers. "Everything that I tried and that worked at LOSC came to nothing. Every time the post or the goalkeeper was in the way, there was a little thing that wouldn't go for me… I watched the videos and with my team-mates, we couldn't believe it. Marama, Hugo, Flo: they said to me I was a black cat. A year previously, everything went in, and now nothing would."

"I didn't have an iron mentality"

Failing to score and conceding too many - the opposite of the previous season - the club from the Côte d'Azur had a poor start to the league season and found themselves in the relegation zone at the winter break. In the sights, the player signed to make the difference, who today recalls "the context became ever more difficult. I was the club's record signing. I was meant to be scoring goals and I wasn't scoring. In the north, I was the darling of the fans, and it Nice that wasn't the case, people had a go at me - rightly enough - and the attacks came from all quarters. When it's like that, you have two choices: you stay and you fight it out and you turn things around, or you crack. I didn't have an iron mentality and I wasn't lucid when all that was needed was a bit of luck in order for things to click, and for the team to be lifted up along with me."

Present at the Divonne training camp every summer

In the winter of 2007, after 6 months at the club, Moussilou was loaned to Saint-Etienne and it was the beginning of the end of his Nice adventure. After that, he was loaned to Marseille, then Doha, before coming back to the Gym in 2008, though he no longer played. He ended up terminating his contract on August 27 2009. After a season in L1 with Boulogne (2009/2010), and relegation to L2, the player who had become a Congolese international (11 caps, 3 goals) found himself unemployed for 6 moths, before joining Lausanne Sports (2010-2011 season), who were in the Super League and involved in Europe, and who were looking for an experienced forward. It was the start of a Swiss idyll, punctuated only by spells at Club Africain and Amiens, before he headed to FC Le Mont, in Yverdon, and then, since 2017, Meyrin, a Geneva club. Happy and full of projects, notably for coaching forwards, Moussilou now lives in Divonne-les-Bains in the Ain part of France.

Divonne, where the Aiglons have spent part of their summer every year since 2013. "I know that, as every time they are here, I go along to see them," he laughs. "The supporters weren't satisfied with my performances, and I understand that because they expected a lot from me, but at the same time people at the club had a lot of time for me. That was reciprocal and it is still the case! I have always followed the Gym, the club's development, the good finishes in the league, the European matches. I never broke the link. I went to see Matthieu Bodmer, my great mate, Claude Puel, Hatem. Since they have gone, every summer I see Nabil (Ouled Gharbia, kitman) who is my friend, Olivier (Dall'Aglio, Sporting Co-ordinator) and Fred (Gioria, assistant coach), an exceptional man. I've even spoken to Adrian (Ursea), who I knew. I'm happy to see what the club has become. When INEOS bought Lausanne, even if I was no longer there, and then the Gym, I said to myself that it was a nice nod to history."

And Matt finishes with class: "At the end of the day, looking back, I only remember the good things. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to turn the situation around at Nice. I would really have liked to have done so… But that's the way it is, that's my life, my experience. With the years that have gone by, I've understood it. I would like to wish OGC Nice good luck and I also want to wish Lille good luck in their bid to become champions."

C.D.
Photos : Icon Sport