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Former Fiji national head coach Gamel: Soccer is for all

What can you tell us about yourself?

Christophe Gamel French guy, born August 1972 in periphery of Paris, coming from a poor background where the family is important and to carry positive values and principles dedicated to hard work, discipline, sacrifices, family and being simple. Growing in poor environment has developed a way of thinking very interesting, it force you to find solutions for everything. Soccer came early as it was the only sport to practice and my father and his friends were playing too. Played until semi pro level, and always wanted to train players since i was player too. Had the luck to play in France and Italy. Got Pro license in 2016 and got the opportunity to train a national team, Fiji I didn’t think twice and thanks my president to have chosen me.

When it comes to your football background, when and where or from who did you get your interest in football?

I got it from family and friends in my quarter, we challenged each other all the time, passion for the game was there. You can’t work and stand long if the passion for soccer is not in your DNA because it requires lot of energy, sacrifices and time. Then I saw some teams playing World Cup 1982 and I fell definitely in love for Soccer.

How come you became a football coach?

I always found interesting to observe the coaches doing training and settle a plan, managing so many factors and running behind the victories and good play. Tactical points and mechanics to put it on the field are very interesting, create and developing a player, interactions between players etc has been always interesting for me. Didn’t have ambition to become football player just to become a good football player as much I could.

How has your training career been so far, which clubs have you been coaching?

I started to coach when I was player, small kids then with time older generations. When I stopped to play at 33yo I got a direct opportunity with a team in France and we got good results, after that I have been in Hungary with a L1 team DVTK, then 3 years in Qatar 1 year with U17 national team and 2 years with Al Rayyan, amazing memories. After that I got an incredible offer that gave me a possibility to challenge myself and learn how was a big European club. I work 4 years for PSG, meeting amazing legends and having amazing moments. I got my pro license and had the luck to train Fiji national team, at the other part of the world but amazing country where the main sport is rugby. Big challenge and I guess I succeed somehow, bringing medals from the 2 main competitions in Oceania.

You were coaching Fijis Mens National team (Bula Boys), how and why Fiji? Did you know anything about the football on Fiji before you got the job?

I was not aware about Oceania to be honest and I found very interesting to develop a project at the other part of the world, challenge was there I took it and very happy to have accepted it.

What has your first two years on Fiji been like?

Has been very hard and very challenging to move an entire system and mentality of people, they understood the project, based on locals and new pattern of soccer for Fiji based on possession. Many good memories from the first day the traditional welcome of FFA and Fijian people, meeting his Excellency the President of Fiji, Kava session at traditional ceremony, getting medal at last Pacific games, working with some amazing people.

We know that you have aimed at changing the football/mindset/playing style. Can you see that the players have embraced the changes you implemented? Are you pleased with the results so far?

Yes, the pattern of soccer has started to change in Fiji, from VPL to national team level, tournaments included. Same for the youth girls and boys national teams. Players are enjoying to manage the ball and display a very creative soccer based on possession.

We think that you and the FA were doing a great job with arranging friendlies with teams over seas (Estonia, Singapore etc). How important were these games where you get to meet players with other physique, pace?

It is simple, in my project it is important to play other nations to be able to recognize different kind of soccer all over the world and prepare mission 2026. Another important point is to create a stimulating context which challenge mentally the players in a very different environment. The last point is to highlight our players and give them a possibility to show their skills, to get an opportunity of soccer pro career. FFA backed me up on that and is on the good tracks, even other nation of Oceania have “copycat” is on this process.

Pacific games ended about a month ago. What do you say about your performance? What was good and what do you think you could have done better?

After 12 years for empty pocket for Fiji at the most important competition in Oceania, very happy to bring a medal. Of course would have prefer the gold but the format of the competition didn’t help us or other team to prove ourselves enough. Regarding what have to be changed I spoke already to the people.

We have noticed that you have experience from coaching in Qatar? Surprised that they managed to win AFC Asian Cup this year?

Yes Qatar was a fantastic experience, I am not at all surprised that they won this title as they have planned it 12 years ago by working on a whole generation of players and with their means and the possibility they have it has paid back so it wasn’t a surprise for me at all.

We know that you have been assistant coach for PSG Féminines. What's the difference (if any) in coaching men and women?

No difference as you train pro soccer. I was the main guy on the field, to manage the training sessions for the manager and head coach whom was in charge of all the women sector. We build a pro environment and brought good players it has given us the possibility to reach the final of Women Champions League in Berlin in 2015. Amazing and hard moment. I had also the luck to go with men and being with Ancelotti one of my mentors. No difference in the soccer between men and women just some specific points like the load etc that have to be noticed . Some women players have the same skills than men, at the moment they are just slower than men, in the future it might change. Soccer is for all.

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