One of the most prominent Serbian volleyball coaches, Nikola Matijašević, is called to be the savior of Cannes, the reigning French club champions currently fighting to avoid relegation.
After working for more than 20 years in France, it is logical that all doors for coaching in this country are always wide open for Matijašević. The next challenge for the Serbian expert is Cannes, the reigning Ligue A champions who are nailed to the bottom of the standings in the competition at mid-season. Will Matijašević manage to help them avoid relegation? Let’s hear it from him…
After a year, you return to work in a country where you have left a big mark and no less than coming to the helm of the current champions. How did that come about?
“Cannes are the champions of France, but they have a series of nine defeats with only two sets won, and the toll was paid by the Argentine coach who was dismissed. The President of Cannes, Jerome Rousselin, contacted me and it took us a couple of days to make an agreement. I packed my bags and came to see if I could help and to what extent since the team is in last place and players are quite demoralized.”
We assume that you were informed about the things in the club and the roster, so what do you think about what you found in Cannes, and what do you think you can change for the better?
“Of course I was informed since I worked in France for 20 years. The situation is very complex, very difficult, defeats have done their thing, the team has lost confidence. Four players from the line-up are injured, Danilo Gelinski is injured but he should start playing in two weeks. Krasi Georgiev, a Bulgarian international, a middle blocker, is also injured. These are players who are very important to the team. The situation is difficult, but I hope we’ll succeed. In a few days, the transfer window opens and we’re negotiating with several players. Georgiev is injured until the end of the championship, the opposite hitter Nelli was also injured and I don’t know how much he can do… It’s complicated, but I really wanted to return to France and work where I spent the longest part of my coaching career.”
What are your expectations for the French Championship?
“Expectations are unusual for a coach – to save ourselves from relegation from the league. We have a play-out this year, it will be even more complicated. If it happens that we miraculously improve the situation together with the team and players, then we’ll look up and want more, but the teams that are currently in the play-off zone escaped us by 11 points, so we should win four games more than those opponents. I don’t think about it much because the main thing for me is to stabilize the team, considering that reinforcements will certainly not arrive in the next two or three weeks. The only goal is avoiding relegation, and then starting a different story next season because, in that case, I’d stay and we’d make a team for bigger results.”
Do Cannes have a chance to reach the playoff in the Champions League?
“At this moment, the chances aren’t realistic since we have problems with injuries and additionally, there are opponents such as Perugia and Trentino… Practically, we talk about mathematical chances, but we want to say goodbye to the Champions League by, at least, trying to beat Fenerbahçe at home because it’s very difficult to upset Italian teams.”
Did the way in which you split with the North Macedonia National Team still hurt you, and how did it all end in terms of their contractual obligations in regard to you?
“I got over it rather ‘quickly’. We can look at these things in two ways – on the one hand, I especially feel sorry for the Gjorgiev brothers and all members of the North Macedonian team who achieved such a bad result at the European Championship because we invested a lot in the whole process. The only thing left was a bitter taste in my mouth that no one from the Macedonian Volleyball Federation has called me to this day, to tell me about the separation, but everything was at a distance, through social networks. It is a ‘black dot’ in everything that even today there was no courage or intelligence to talk about it and to part properly. After all, I put in hard work to make a success with the team…”