3 March 2019

Africa: Madagascar Coach Dupuis Juggling Job With Role At French Club

A training ground in the suburbs south of Paris, between a field and a railway line, is a long, long way from Madagascar.

Yet this is where Nicolas Dupuis, the coach of the Indian Ocean island state's national football team, spends much of his time.

When the Frenchman is not leading Madagascar to the Africa Cup of Nations, he is taking charge of Fleury, a small club in the French fourth division.

He insists he is just as passionate about both roles, with Dupuis having joined Fleury at the start of this year. It was in 2017 that he was named as coach of Madagascar's 'Barea', the species of Zebu which is also the nickname for the national team.

Dupuis, 51, needs the flexibility of a gymnast to prepare Madagascar for their first ever Cup of Nations on the one hand, while also trying to keep Fleury from being relegated to the fifth tier.

"It is quite a contrast," he tells AFP. "It is quite unusual. I have to make an effort, but I am happy to do it because this club is different and has huge potential."

The club's president, Pascal Bovis, knows the 'Red Island' well and was happy for Dupuis to juggle both roles.

"We were looking for someone with the same mentality as that of the club, who could be here long-term. He does a lot with very little. He has taken to it naturally," Bovis says.

- Madagascar 'take priority' -

Dupuis previously spent 20 years at Yzeure in central France, leading them from the regional leagues into the national third tier.

Avoiding relegation is his primary aim with Fleury, but at the same time he is trying to prepare Madagascar for their Cup of Nations debut in Egypt in June.

They secured qualification in October after a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea, becoming the first team to secure their place in the 24-team tournament.

"The president is fully aware that Madagascar take priority," Dupuis says of his dual role.

"But we have ambitions with Fleury as well. I am right behind both."

That is easier said than done, though, with 9,000 kilometres separating the two.

"Luckily we train in the morning, so when I get home I turn my thoughts to Madagascar. I split my days into two."

When he has to travel to the Indian Ocean island, his club have to get on without him, something which Bovis insists is not a problem.

"He is part of the international scene, he has contacts in Africa, which is a footballing continent. It's great for him, for us and for the national team," Bovis adds.

"When he came in, he made it clear that what happens with the national team stays there, and what happens at the club stays between us. He never talks about them," insists Fleury forward Farid Beziouen.

There is a link between the two though.

When he came to Fleury, Dupuis brought with him a Malagasy international in the shape of Zotsara Randriambololona. Better known as "Zout", the midfielder arrived from Antwerp in Belgium.

"The coach is the same here as he is there," he says. "When I join up with the national team they will have a laugh about it and say that I am the coach's 'son' now!"

"We don't talk too much about the Cup of Nations, it's still a long way away," he adds. In more ways than one.


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