Back in amateur football for the pure love of the game, 2006 UEFA Champions League winner Ludovic Giuly was in the headlines this weekend as fourth-tier side MDA Foot Chasselay beat a professional team for the first time in the French Cup.
At a packed Ludovic Giuly Stadium – the arena's name underlining the 37-year-old's links to Rhone-based Chasselay – he struck on 51 minutes against Ligue 2 strugglers FC Istres. Cheick Fantamady Diarra levelled 17 minutes later but Chasselay prevailed on penalties to book their berth in Monday's round of 32 draw.
"My players gave a good account of themselves," said coach Stéphane Santini, son of former France boss Jacques Santini. But Giuly, who returned to the club he represented at youth level last summer after ending an 18-year career that took him to Olympique Lyonnais, AS Monaco FC, FC Barcelona, AS Roma, Paris Saint-German and FC Lorient, was less understated.
"It's historic for the players; it's a huge achievement," said the tearful former French international, who finished up playing as centre-forward. "I'm clearly too old for that!"
Chasselay is a town of 3,000 people, 25 minutes drive north of Lyon, and the Monts d'Or Azergues outfit represent the surrounding area. They are currently struggling at third from bottom in the Championnat de France Amateur, Group B, but the man who won the 2006 UEFA Champions League with Barcelona and helped Monaco to the final three years earlier is determined to help – fitting football around his job as television pundit for BeIn Sports.
"When I commit to something, I do it 100%," Giuly said. "I train two or three times a week and considering my job at BeIn we agreed I wouldn't play every game. I have a love of football, a love of the pitch. I could have carried on [as a professional] but that wasn't my aim. I wanted to come back home and enjoy my family. So I stopped playing Ligue 1 but not amateur football."
Naturally, Giuly made a proposal to Lyon, his first professional team. "It didn't work out and that's football," he said. His dream of playing one last game at the Stade de Gerland could still come true, though; Lyon are also in the last 32.
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