Mehdi Mostefa: "At my age, human values ​​take precedence"

Mehdi Mostefa during a friendly meeting against Romania before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Text by: Farid Achache Follow

After the relegation of Béziers to National 2, Mehdi Mostefa, 36, decided to stay to help his team find its place in National. In parallel, he begins to pass his coaching diplomas. The former Algerian international, trained in Monaco, who participated in the eighth finals of the Greens at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, returns for RFI on a long career, sometimes fraught with pitfalls.


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RFI: Why did you decide to continue with Béziers in National 2 next season ? Could you have ended your career ?

Mehdi Mostefa: First, I have three children and the two older ones, I didn't see them grow up too much. I want to take advantage of the last one, which is four years old. At my age, having family close to me is essential. I need them and they need me. I had the opportunity to sign again in Cyprus (2017-2018), but I didn't want to. Second, I am fortunate to have a great president, who I can count on and who can count on me. At my age, human values ​​take precedence.

My president wanted me to stay and try to get the team back together. I liked his speech. The project is interesting and in parallel, I am starting my coaching diplomas. I'm going to start something new while continuing to play football. Frankly, I am very happy even if it is a level below what I have experienced. I'm happy to continue almost 37 years old when most of the other players have already stopped.

In a way, is it a smooth end of career ?

Yes, but it will still require rigor! I feel like I can still play and I want to. Football has brought me a lot and I want to transmit. I'm going to see if I have the fiber. I am the oldest in the locker room and I see that the young people are listening. We'll see if choosing a coaching career is right for me. By remaining a little while player, I give myself the benefit of the doubt. I give advice and I motivate. My teammates are listening because I knew the high level, even if I was not a great player. But I am modest and I stay in my place and obviously they appreciate it. We will see, nothing is taken for granted.

Has football changed a lot since you started in 2004 ?

Perhaps there is more recklessness. With money, agents are becoming more influential. They sparkle things. It goes to the head of some. Football business has taken over. Fortunately, some young players keep their heads on their shoulders and move on. That doesn't mean they don't have a personality.

Mehdi Mostefa with Ajjacio's jersey (L). AFP PHOTO / PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA

Looking back, what makes you the most proud ?

I had an average career. But I'm happy with what I did. I was not necessarily predestined for football, but I worked a lot to get there. Especially on the mind. When I was younger, I found myself in complicated situations, especially when I left the Monaco training center. But I never gave up and that's what I try to instill in my children. Yes, it could have been better. But the main thing for me is that I never gave up and that I went as far as possible with my means. 

► To re-read: "The World Cup is the culmination of a career"

What do you keep as a souvenir of your international career ?

I keep the memory of my arrival the first time when I was already 27 years old (in 2010). I was like a kid! My hands were sweaty, I had to represent a country. There have been ups and downs. I have sometimes been loved, sometimes criticized. This last game remains in Brazil against Germany in the round of 16. There have been so many emotions. Pride, and disappointment. Perhaps we could have passed against Germany. We were proud to have played against the Germans and disappointed to have lost. The selection was a great adventure for me and my family.

During your first major competition, you did not pass the first round of the CAN 2013 in South Africa with Vahid Halilhodzic at the controls while you were highly anticipated. The following year, you are in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Brazil. Looking back, what happened?

With Vahid Halilhodzic, it was work over several years. If we did not have the results hoped for at CAN 2013, we did not give up. We continued to work with him, even if it was not obvious every day. It took a while to adapt to his personality. After knowing him better, everyone understood his methods and it paid off in Brazil. He managed to create a real family outside of matches. These are not empty words!

The starting eleven of Algeria against Germany in the eighth finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

What does the title of African champion of Algeria in 2019 in Egypt inspire in you ?

After 2014, there was a break because there was no longer the stability that Algeria experienced with Vahid Halilhodzic. The transition was complicated. Belmadi has done this job again. We saw it at the last CAN. It was wonderful. Playing for Algeria is very special. We play with guts. Belmadi has transcended his group. Often we hear from a coach: "  I love my players  ". It's wonderful to love your players. But that is not enough. The hardest part is being loved by your players. A coach loved by his players can go anywhere. When there is a moment of doubt, that we turn around and look at the coach, we want to fight for him. Djamel Belmadi succeeded in doing it like Vahid Halilhodzic. He found the middle ground between being close to his players and knowing how to bring rigor. He succeeded in this mixture. I think it is because he was himself a good player and is able to project himself.

Was it a big disappointment for you not to continue your international career after the 2014 World Cup ? Christian Gourcuff who succeeded Vahid Halilhodzic never called you.

I would have liked to continue a little with my generation. It hurts me. I was one of the few in this group who was never called again. Was it because I signed in Lorient and it went wrong between Gourcuff and Lorient? I don't know ... However, they called me during the summer and said "  we're counting on you  ". I will never know, but I don't want to live with regrets. I ended my international career with a round of 16 against Germany at the World Cup. I want to remember that. But it was hard to leave this family, it was disappointing.

► To re-read: Mehdi Mostefa arrives in the elite late

What memories do you have of your years in Ligue 1 ?

I have often known clubs that played more maintenance than leading roles. I remember this meeting in 2012 with Ajaccio on the last day against Toulouse. We had to win the match to stay in the elite and we did it (2-0). Toulouse had a big team. At the time, we were facing Capua and other very good players ( Serge Aurier, Wissam Ben Yedder, Aymen Abdennour, editor's note )! We celebrated it in the locker room. With Ajaccio, there was a very human side to which I am attached. That day, it was a whole family that kept going!

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