Exclusive interview with Pascal Dupraz, football coach & TV consultant
Pascal Dupraz is the former manager of the Evian Thonon Gaillard Football Club.
He recently left his post as the coach of Toulouse Football Club (TFC) after achieving a huge success in the history of football: catching 10 points behind in 10 days.
He is now a consultant for Canal+ after being the consultant for the TF1 group during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The former coach of the “Purple” team from Toulouse released his first book “A Season with Pascal Dupraz: Lessons of Leadership” prefaced by Didier Deschamps – the coach of the French football team.
In 2018, you published the book “A Season with Pascal Dupraz: Leadership Lessons” in order to share your best advice for managers. Could you summarise your book in a few words?
This book was primarily intended to meet the expectations of my friends from the “Haute-Savoie” region.
My first objective was to tell the story of a football season from the inside. This started as weekly notes in a diary, and later became a book.
Throughout the pages of my book, I first wanted to talk about life goals such as success, but also about failure and especially the ability to bounce back from such a failure.
I have worked with my co-author, Frédéric Rey-Millet, and together we explain how to turn a failure into a success, as well as some management methods.
From the outside, I was often perceived as a very “bossy” personality… but the truth is that I wanted my players to feel comfortable enough to participate within the team.
Management is all about listening, listening to his superiors, but also to his collaborators.
How do you re-motivate a football team like the “TFC” to keep it on course for Ligue 1? More specifically, how do you manage to re-motivate and restore the players’ confidence during a half-time?
My coaching job at TFC was a long journey, starting with a nightmare but ending like a dream.
The adventure started with an interview with the President of the football club of Toulouse, which is the fourth biggest city in France. The President of the TFC was looking for a coach to slow down the fall of the club in Ligue 2, to bounce back and go back in stride. However, the “Purple” were only 10 points behind. I didn’t accept this vision of failure at the outset which was seen as a fatality.
I started by telling my players:
“Do not see this season as a nightmare. You will not become a hero if you go slow, but you will become a hero if you apprehend your profession in a professional way. You must respect the entity and the institution of football. Give the best of yourself…”
In parallel with this, I set a strict framework, but wide enough so that each player could express himself for the benefit of the team.
When I started at the TFC, there was no joy and no light, but football is a sport aimed at young people that I love and will defend from the bottom of my heart. The youth is usually cheerful, carefree and joyful.
However, the Toulouse football team was the exact opposite so I started by “switching the light on”.
My objective was to bring everyone back to a common goal and to instil positivity. My strength has been to imagine something unimaginable and that was maintaining the TFC in Ligue 1 whilst the Toulouse club was 10 points behind.
The main issue with the other teams is that presidents, coaches and managers end up acting as roadblocks. They have a limiting purpose and they usually act in favour of their personal goals. To me, setting goals that seem unachievable is the best way to succeed.
In your opinion, what is the best way to transfer the secrets of motivation and team performance to the business world?
Everything is transposable when one addresses the human. There are always analogies.
Above all, it’s necessary to give the best of oneself for oneself because one must not forget oneself.
Before trusting others, I have to trust myself. However, it takes time to build this self-confidence. I always give the best of myself. I am hardworking and committed.
I also look at what is done elsewhere. Today, I am able to question and challenge myself.
If I fail, no one could say that I neglected my role or that I didn’t give my best.
But it is also, as in business, working together as a team. We must collaborate.
In companies, as in sport and as in any organisation, we must work together to succeed. Sometimes, in both sport and business, we have to work with people we don’t really like. Despite this, we still move forward when we collaborate together.
Listening is also a key point, you have to grow yourself with your relationships and external contributions.
When I talk about my assistants, I consider them as experts because they are more skilled than me on certain topics. Their expertise makes me grow, develops my own skills and makes me stronger.
At first, I could not stand the criticism, but today it helps me move forward.
I ask my critics to develop their insights and ask them what tools they think would be useful for me.
I changed my mindset thanks to experience and maturity. As in business, when one is a manager, one masters.
Finally, I always get new ideas from my colleagues who are a great source of inspiration.
We remember the French national football team’s strike during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the bus scene where players refused to come down to take part in their training. How do you think we got there?
Has French football experienced a crisis from the inside?
Looking back, how do you analyse the situation as a coach yourself?
In my opinion, there was no coincidence and there were strong dysfunctions at many levels.
In 2010, it was the lack of leadership that led to anarchy.
I watched this crisis from the outside, just like any other football fan.
To me, those players who didn’t want to get off the bus to join the training should not have been selected. As a child, I would have dreamed of being in their shoes and having the chance to participate in a World Cup. Their reaction was clearly unacceptable and none of them should have worn the French football team’s jersey.
There was a lack of clarity and a coach who was overwhelmed by the events, which led to a group dynamic moving into the wrong direction. Uncertainty has triumphed against the lack of leadership.
Today, the French team is very supportive, led by a remarkable coach (Didier Deschamps) who is very close to the President of the French Football Federation (Noël Le Graët).
These two lead personalities of French football share a common vision and support each other. It’s essential in order to accomplish great things, such as winning the World Cup together for example.
What is the biggest crisis situation you have ever faced? And how did you fix it?
For me, the biggest crisis I had to deal with was at the Evian Thonon Gaillard Football Club.
It took us 20 years to build this club, which went professional 18 years after my debut as a coach. It took only 1 year to destroy it.
After playing in Ligue 1 for 4 years, the club was downgraded in Ligue 2 and some individuals who pretended to be my friends fired me.
The club has been destroyed because of the egocentrism and the foolishness of men.
I often say that football drives you crazy. By becoming President of a club, people from all over the country know you. You think you can control everything but in fact you don’t control anything. In football, there are many internal wars fighting over power, just like in politics. It’s clearly a leadership crisis.
In parallel, you are a television consultant and a former sportscaster for the 2018 World Cup. What were the highlights of the last World Cup?
I kept being optimistic from the very beginning of this World Cup until the victory.
I was working for the TV channel TF1 as a consultant and I intervened every day of the World Cup to analyse the games in “The Mag of the World Cup” hosted by Denis Brogniart.
I strongly believe in the law of attraction and I was the first to think that France would win the cup.
Didier Deschamps was the perfect coach for this team and he himself chose the men with whom he wanted to “go to war”. He hasn’t been influenced by any consultants or journalists.
During the games, the journalists and consultants were unanimous to affirm that France had no chance to become the world champions.
But when France won the cup, they immediately changed their mind and their speech.
For my part, I have always believed and I have always been a supporter of the French team.
We can achieve victory both altogether and as a team.
What are the best memories of your career so far?
My adventure with the Evian Thonon Gaillard (ETG) club for sure.
It is after 2 years of professionalism that I managed to get the ETG in the final of Cup of France, against the Girondins of Bordeaux. We lost the game 3-2 but it still made me happy. It was a great moment. The Savoyards had improvised giant-size “tartiflettes” on the roadsides near the stadium. The police officers told us they had a great time.
There was a great vibe!
It was a real convivial and sharing moment, bringing people together.
It was connected with the roots of the football spirit that I love so much.
I feel very proud of being able to contribute to this event at my level.
What is your favourite quote?
“No one is bound to the impossible”.
Interested in booking Pascal Dupraz as a keynote speaker for your next event?