Yzeure faces the biggest challenge in its history

Smaller budget of D2, Yzeure challenges this Sunday the PSG in the final of the Coupe de France. The match of a lifetime for the girls of Ophélie Meilleroux, former French international and coach of a very young group. RMC Sport went to meet them.

“To say that we are not thinking of PSG would be lying to you”. Ten days before the final of the Women’s French Cup against Paris Saint-Germain, Christine Manie was aware of the importance of such an appointment. The captain of Yzeure (38), D2’s smallest budget, is not on her first try: she has had two World Cups, the 2012 Olympics and seven African Cups of Nations with Cameroon. And the defeat conceded last weekend against Mérignac-Arlac (3-1) is a slight brake in the already exceptional season of the FFYAA (Women’s Football Yzeure Allier Auvergne).

“We have no illusions, there are ten classes difference”

Despite the lack of resources and a budget estimated at 270,000 euros, the Allier club is currently 3rd in group B in D2 (35 pts), just behind Rodez, promoted to D1 (48 pts), and Nice (37 pts) , his last opponent in the league (May 22). If the championship remains the priority, this Coupe de France final against the reigning French champions, which will kick off on Sunday at 6:15 p.m., is “the icing on the cake” for Renaud Fabre, the club’s general manager. . “It’s an unimaginable feat. The enthusiasm is enormous from a city of 12,000 inhabitants. We have no illusions. There are ten deviation classes. But if there are gifts, we’ll take them. If we compare our means, we can afford a PSG player with our budget, and not just any player (laughs). It’s just a bonus, but the girls prepare normally, without pressure. The group does not take the lead.

It is not Ophélie Meilleroux who will say the opposite. The former French international (67 caps) came to the rescue of the first team last February after the departure of Théodore Genoux. All while keeping her cap as vice-president of the club and her other job in Bourbon-Lancy (Saône-et-Loire), where she works as an employee of the city’s technical services. “I took over the group three months ago and sometimes it’s difficult to manage everything at the same time. For now, I’m doing my best. But this club is so close to my heart”, confides the one who was trained in Yzeure.

Ophélie Meilleroux during the semi-final of the women's CDF, in 2022.
Ophélie Meilleroux during the women’s CDF semi-final in 2022. © Iconsport

A little thumb not impressed

In the middle of her busy schedule, Ophélie Meilleroux has carefully scheduled the last days before the big meeting at the Gaston-Gérard stadium in Dijon. Five training sessions, including a very light match eve, to try to thwart the plans of Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani. “It’s still a football game, a lot can happen in 90 minutes. We dream, but we also keep our feet on the ground”, adds Christine Manie, who has already faced certain players when they played in the selection. “The group is young and cosmopolitan, but with a lot of maturity, she continues. . When we play the best, it inevitably pushes us to be better ourselves.”

This Coupe de France final is for a large part of the group the match of a lifetime, including for the captain of the FFYAA, also a facilitator in the schools and coordinator of the football school. “It’s the most beautiful moment compared to my age. Admittedly, I experienced two World Cups and the Olympics, but I was young. Objectively, I would never have imagined playing such a match at 38 years old. The Cameroonian international even refuses to talk about the last big match of her career and is considering a career at Formiga (44), a former PSG player and now in São Paulo. “She blew me away and I was inspired by her. I faced her at the Olympic Games by the way! But Christine Manie is still on the ground. At some point the body will say stop, but I still keep the motivation.”

Poor resources…

A motivation transmitted to her teammates, ultra-motivated for this great meeting, despite the prestige of the adversary. “PSG is one of the best teams in the world and has been rivaling Lyon in recent seasons, notes Ophélie Meilleroux. It will be an opportunity to compare ourselves at the level of D1 and to see what we are worth against the best. It’s also a reward for the whole season because they put in a lot of effort. The girls deserve this final and they show a huge desire. Rarely have I seen such impressive mental strength.”

The Yzeuriennes keep fishing despite an unobvious environment. Many of them come to the Bellecombe stadium by scooter or bicycle and work nearby. “We have mediocre training conditions. We don’t have the means to have a professional structure that would facilitate recovery. We only have three players under federal contract”, continues the coach. By way of comparison, the Parisiennes all have an improved federal contract (there is no professional contract in women’s football).

Christine Manie against FC Nantes, in the semi-final of the Women's French Cup.
Christine Manie against FC Nantes, in the semi-final of the Women’s French Cup. © Iconsport

…but a present enthusiasm

However, the supporters are mobilizing to come and encourage their team. “Buses have been chartered to transport Yzeuriens who want to come to Dijon. We hope to have around 400 or 500 fans. We had managed to attract 1,900 people for the semi-final at home against Nantes”, underlined Renaud Fabre ten days ago. A few hours before kick-off, hopes are beyond expectations. More than 1,000 supporters have already reserved their place to travel the 200 kilometers which separate them from the Côte d’Or.

After Évian (2-2 then 5-3 on penalties), Toulouse (1-1 then 5-4), Lille (1-1 then 5-4), Rodez (1-0) and Nantes (3-1 ), Yzeure is looking for a new resounding feat to bring down the French champion after a historic clear round.

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