Having helped France win the 1998 FIFA World Cup the last time his home country staged a major final tournament, Youri Djorkaeff knows what UEFA EURO 2016 means to a new generation of French fans and players.
Now 46, the forward helped Les Bleus to triumph in the 1998 World Cup and then prove their class once more by winning UEFA EURO 2000. "It's every player's dream to win the World Cup at home, and we did it," he told UEFA.com. "We did it during a period when France were not the favourites, we had a lot of people against us … but that's very French. We were in a bad situation and we turned it around in a very short time. The fact that we won it at home will make this World Cup the most brilliant success ever for French football."
Such words can only be encouraging for the current France side, who have yet to prove that they can reach similar heights to Djorkaeff's class of '98. However, the 82-times capped player feels that circumstances are conspiring to make UEFA EURO 2016 special. "The enthusiasm of the fans, the new stadiums," he explained. "Our clubs are changing as well. You can see that at the moment with Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco. More clubs will become more competitive, and the French League will improve, so there will be a much bigger fanbase. I think EURO 2016 will be incredible."
Having felt what it is to have his nation so close behind him in 1998, Djorkaeff knows that the current France team will receive a huge lift from the streets as well as the stands in 2016. "You are proud to be playing in front of your family, in front of your friends," he said. "Some of the players will be playing in their home towns, or not far from where they grew up. These are things which cause strong emotions, and which can boost any player. All those small details give you a second wind in difficult games."
Home for the former AS Monaco FC, FC Internazionale Milano, 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Bolton Wanderers FC man is now New York, where he ended his playing career. However, he is well aware of the changes that are occurring in his native Lyon – the new Stade de Lyon is being built not far from his childhood home. Djorkaeff feels that the leisure and commercial complex attached will help to leave a lasting legacy for the city.
"Having a new stadium, a new place where you can share, come together, will give life to the whole neighbourhood," he said. "You don't want to go to a concrete stadium where there is just a drinks stand, toilets and a car park a long way away; these days you want easy access. Football has to be accessible for everyone. In the past it was only for hardcore supporters; nowadays it's for families, kids. This new generation of stadiums will go in that direction. It was tough to get it started in Decines, but once it is there, it will be a great resource."
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