Their new coach had an annoying habit of rapidly chewing gum, the one thing Les Bleus have come to learn about him in the last two and a half hours. They had completed their morning training session under his watchful eyes, and ate lunch and yet, their new coach wouldn’t reveal his name or try to get to know them personally (he claimed he already did). If this was some sort of tactical scare, well, it was partially working. Benzema, Pogba, and Giroud were loitering in the lobby of the Clairefontaine awaiting the rest of the team when their coach appeared out of nowhere dressed to the nines, a fantastic leather duffle in his black gloved right hand. He looked like he was going out and he forgot something and came back to fetch it. His presence caused Pogba to yelp and the coach looked up in dismay.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
Giroud looked behind him and then back at the coach. “Are you speaking to us?”
“Erm, yes, why?”
“You’re being nice,” Benzema accused. “Do you have a split personality or something? Just an hour ago, you were being cold and now you’re being nice. Make up your mind, oui?”
The coach’s blue eyes widen. “That son of a…MARCUS!!” he shouted causing everyone in the lobby to protect their ears.
When Marcus finally appeared with half of the team following him, everyone gasped. There were two of them and apparently ‘Sir’ was this Marcus fellow. They were mirror identical twins and the team looked back and forth in wonderment. They couldn’t tell them apart in physical appearance. Had Marcus not been wearing black slacks and a simple white t-shirt!
“Marc, why do you have to scare them on the first day?”
Marcus simply grunted. “Team, this is my better half, Ray, and he’s your assistant coach.”
“Hi Ray!” almost everyone chirped at once.
Ray smiled. “Hello,” and Marcus knew they were going to gravitate towards his twin rather easily. Ray always brought the sunshine with him. “Now that the greet and meet is over, please, as you were.” Marcus immediately got rid of the team from the lobby. “It’s lovely of you to join us. How’s the sun in London?”
Ray frowned. “So I was late, deal with it. I had a meeting with Shah Rukh Khan.”
“Still late to his meetings?”
“Yes, and we had a fight. I swear we’re like an old couple.” Ray fondly shook his head. “Anyway, did you brief the team? Are they excited and motivated to fight for what’s theirs next year?”
“Yeah, about that,” Marcus grinned wickedly at his identical twin. “I put them through their paces earlier and I’ve already decided who’s playing and who’s not.”
Ray groaned. “Marcus, you’re going to make them hate you.”
“I’m not here to be liked. Go change and meet me back here in three minutes. We have a presser to attend.”
Marcus savored the last pull of his cigarette causing Ray to fan his face as they head towards their first press conference as the new minders of Les Bleus. He put out the cigarette using the tip of his tongue and disposed of it in a bin just as they walked into the buzzing conference room. As soon as the identical duo sat down, the room became deadly quiet. Some of the new faces who never had the pleasure of seeing the twins this close before stared from one to the other.
“Are we going to get started, non?” Marcus held up his left wrist and tapped the titanium Cartier. “Time’s just ticking by and we still have to prepare for the match.”
“How would you deal with replacing a long time coach?”
Marcus looked at the journalist who asked the first question and shook his head. “Next question,”
“What are you doing to gain the players’ trust?”
“I’m not here to babysit anyone to gain their trust. Next question.”
A female journalist raised her hand and points at Ray. “Ray, are you and the team ready for the game tomorrow?”
Before Ray could respond, his twin interjected with, “Now that’s how you ask a question relating to a game.”
Over the few chuckles, Ray replied, “I actually just flew in, but the boys are ready. Obviously, it’ll take time for them to adapt to the new coaching head, but they’re ready.”
The same journalist asked, “Do you anticipate it to be a close game?”
Marcus scowled. “Football is like they say, unpredictable. Close, far, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the result when the final whistle goes.”
“Now that you’re the new coach of Les Bleus, do you think you’d ever recall Nasri?”
“He is not a favorite player of mine. As a matter of fact, he has never been a favorite player of mine.” Marcus watched as shock and surprise littered some of the journalists’ faces. Some even had the audacity to gasp. “He is not important. Yes, go on and can quote that. It’s not a misquote.”
Ray fondly shook his head at his brother as he reached for the glass of water. Marcus handled the media his way not caring what the world may think when they read his blunt and sometimes rude remarks.
When the journalists recovered from the shock, one asked, “Have you decided who your captain is?”
“I believe his name is Hugo Lloris.”
At this mention, a round of applause broke out from the back of the room.
Marcus didn’t even smile. “Alright, this interview is over.” He stood in time with his twin. After they exited, the journalists couldn’t find a juicier topic to talk about than Les Bleus’ new crazy coach.
France v Brazil
Date: 26 March 2015
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
The team waited anxiously in the locker room for their coach to inform them of his first starting eleven in the friendly against the Brazilians. Game time was only twenty minutes away and still no one knew who was going to start. This made Patrice Evra angry and he was about to suggest that they go out there to find the coach when the door swung open. Marcus walked in arguing with his twin. Both were dressed in shirts, ties, vests and jeans, their reddish auburn wavy hair tamed and under control.
“Everyone ready to play?” Marcus asked. When everyone nodded or grunted in agreement, he said, “Good,” and started pointing at individuals. “You’ll start, you’ll start, you’ll start, and you’ll sit on the bench.” He said to Valbuena, Evra, Sakho and Varane respectively. When he had his ten men, he turned to the goalies. “Mandanda is my goalie and captain tonight.” He looked at the team. “I don’t care if this is a friendly. It’s not fun and games for me. I don’t want you to enjoy yourself out there; I want you to work your asses off.”
Pogba couldn’t help it. He had to say something. “But it’s just a friendly.”
“Forget about starting. Schneiderlin takes your place.” The team gasped realizing the reality of their situation. “And if you lose this game, I don’t want to see any of you on social media sites. At your clubs, you have it too easy, right Benzema?”
“Marc!” Ray hissed. “You don’t single-handedly embarrass a player.”
“I am who I am. I go to sleep and wake up like this.”
And then he was gone. The team looked to Ray.
Ray shook his head and sighed. “Guys, regardless of what Marc says, go out there and do your best. I don’t want to say it’s just a friendly because we both know we’ll be lying because of the fans we have.” He smiled and the guys couldn’t resist smiling along with him. “Win, lose or draw allez Les Bleus!”
“ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!”
Before the match, legends such as Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Marcel Desailly were honored on the pitch for reaching 100 caps. Marcus thought it was time wasting. The FFF could’ve done it another time. They had requested him to pose with the legends for a photo, but he declined. He didn’t come to pose for photos with has-beens. He came to coach the future.
The game started well for France, but better for Brazil, so when Varane scored the first goal, Marcus didn’t break into celebration with the Stade de France. He was watching Brazil and how hungry they were on the ball. He never disliked a team more than Brazil. In the 40th minute, Oscar tips the ball under Mandanda for the equalizer and the French fans looked toward the new coach to see his reaction, which was quicker than the no reaction expression for the opening goal.
“Fils de pute!” Marcus yelled startling his bench. “What the heck is wrong with you at the back there? Now is not the time to take a nap!”
When the whistle blew at half time with the scoreline at 1-1, Marcus was the first to enter the tunnel. When they assembled in the locker room, he was pacing, angrily stabbing at his tablet screen. “Pogba, does out there look like a friendly to you?”
“Exactly! That’s why I said that this game is not a friendly when I walked in here earlier!” Marcus shouted blue eyes enraged. “Brazil didn’t come here to make friends. They came here to fight and to win, and you want to know something? They are going to win tonight, but by how much? That depends on the way you play.”
Hugo Lloris was quite surprised by the new coach’s outburst. No one has ever talked to them like this before. It was obvious that the boys were feeling the same way too given that they were looking at anywhere but the coach. Ray was stopped out in the tunnel by the press and he had obliged them.
“You can’t leave Mandanda exposed in the back like that!”
Les Bleus didn’t fare better in the second half and when rising Brazilian superstar and captain Neymar scored their second goal in the 57th minute, Stade de France began to boo the French team. Marcus huffed and squeezed the tablet tighter in his palm. Twelve minutes later Luiz Gustavo sealed victory for the Brazilians with a sweet header leaving Mandanda helpless. Marcus had it. He threw the tablet on the ground and stomped on it silencing the Stade de France.
“Even my grandmother could’ve prevented that shot from going in by defending better, you blind bats!” Marcus scoffed and pointed to Nabil Fekir on the bench. “Warm up,”
“Yes, Sir!” Fekir grinned despite the tense atmosphere and did as he was told. He entered the game in the 74th minute replacing Antoine Griezmann thus making his debut for Les Bleus. When Stade de France started to boo him every time he touched the ball, Marcus’s anger almost boiled over. He looked over at his twin on the bench who only shook his head in pure disgust. The match ended 3-1 in Brazil’s favor, but the highlight of the night was the new French coach’s antics by the sidelines. Twitter was averaging 200 tweets per second and he was currently a trending topic.
TF1 grabbed a hold of Marcus before he could make an angry exit. “This was your first game as the new charge of Les Bleus. Do you think you could’ve prepared better?”
Marcus scowled. “Brazil didn’t come to make friends. They were fast and precise and did exactly what they came here to do: win.”
Realizing that he wasn’t going to get full answers out of this one, the journalist changed his tactic. “Do you think France could’ve won?”
“Perhaps we should have tried coming back when we were 2-1 down, but what is done is done at the final whistle. I mean, Brazil was traumatized at the World Cup when Germany beat them 7-1, so I think this is a good result for them.”
The journalist tried to keep a straight face as he asked, “What did you think of the atmosphere this evening?”
“I would commend the fans, but I think they were downright immature and atrocious for whistling Fekir. They should get use to changes and they should be on board with Les Bleus no matter what. Tonight, they were an utter embarrassment and I wish I could punish every single one of them myself. Bonsoir.” Without waiting for the journalist to declare the interview over, Marcus walked off and headed into the tunnel. The team was dreading the talk after seeing their coach throw and stomp on the tablet by the sideline. Who knows what this deranged man could do to them?
“I’m too young to die,” Pogba fussed as he fiddled with his sweater.
Giroud found the situation amusing. He laughed and threw an arm around his young friend. “Have no fear, I’ll protect you.”
“From what?” Marcus asked as he entered the locker room causing everyone to fall silent when they saw the fire in his blue eyes. “As your coach, I am not here to spoon feed you or to hold your hand to guide you through darkness or to catch you when you fall. I might be the coach of Les Blues, but first and foremost, I am a fan and I am going to behave like one whenever we win or lose.” He looked at every individual as he said this. “We didn’t lose 7-1 but don’t let that happen again especially against Brazil.”
A few of the players lightly chuckle.
“I take it you don’t like Brazil then?” Fekir asked bravely.
“Non, Monsieur!” Marcus grimaced. “By the way, Fekir, you’re going to be a great addition to the team. I like what you did out there in the last ten minutes. Don’t listen to the fans. Let them boo. Listen to your heart.”
“Teacher’s pet,” Pogba playfully accused under his breath as Fekir positively beamed next to him.
“Remember, no social media tonight. Freshen up and retire to bed. We have to participate in activities in the morning.”
After the coach left, some of the boys let out relieved breaths.
“It’s official, he has some sort of mental problem,” Benzema stressed. “How are we going to get along with him? Where did he come from? Does he even have coaching experience?”
Lloris shrugged. “Why not ask him at practice tomorrow?”
“Are you insane?” Matuidi looked at his captain in disbelief. “He’s loco! He’s going to eat us alive.”
“Poulet!” Evra called out from across the room. “Cluck cluck!”
The locker room erupted into laughter forgetting that they had a madman for their new coach for the moment.
^ Fils de pute – son of a bitch (French)
^ Poulet – chicken (French)
^ I think I might have given too much away, but I wanted to bring the character across in such a way that one would know what to expect in later chapters.
REMEMBER, THIS IS FICTION & IT IS IN NO WAY ASSOCIATED WITH LES BLEUS OR THE FFF.