“I don’t care about PSG otherwise it hurts my head! » Denis Lathoud in the text to evoke the shock of the extremes, this Tuesday evening in the round of 16 of the Coupe de France, between Strasbourg and PSG. A division apart, an economic world as well (16.364 million for PSG against 1.1 for the Alsatian club), but a great evening in perspective at the Zénith (8:30 p.m.) which should be almost full; for the occasion Strasbourg is deserting its 950-seat gymnasium.
“We will take advantage of the moment, we will come close to 5,000 spectators, regardless of the result” continues Lathoud (56), coach of Strasbourg (SEHB) since 2019. He claims not to be afraid of taking a rouste against one of his former clubs (1994-1997), nine-time French champion of Starligue, the national elite : “No, I’m not afraid because apart from Nantes (reference to the HBC victory last Saturday of the Champions Trophy, 37-33) everyone takes it. PSG are one of the best teams in Europe, so we will try to delay the deadline as much as possible. Whether we take 10,15, 20, it won’t change our season. »
A season where Strasbourg will aim to stay in the Proligue according to his coach: “We will try to maintain ourselves, we have 500,000 euros in payroll, that’s the salary of a PSG player. We are not ready for the climb. It takes 3.5 million to climb, we are at 1.1 today, the delta is too big not to yoyo. » He speaks with knowledge, he experienced this when he was coaching in Dijon (2006-2014): “A climb requires preparation, it takes several years for that. We have just changed our presidency, we have a new director office, a young and dynamic team, the proof with this operation at the Zenith set up in six weeks. » This new energy pleases the 1995 world champion: “The leaders want to develop handball in Strasbourg where it has been moribund for too long compared to the place it should have, given the culture of this sport, its history. »
“I remain a competitor, even if I am closer to the exit than the beginning, I always want to confront myself with the best”
Helping the club grow could encourage Denis Lathoud to extend his contract which ends next June: “I want to stay if the club develops. All the conditions are met, that’s why I came to start. So why go elsewhere? I have the example of Nantes, which I knew (in D2) in 2008 and which had barely more means than Strasbourg today and knew how to take the right turn. » The former fullback would see himself completing his career as a coach in Alsace, which began in 2002 in Normandy while he was still playing: “We will also see if the leaders want me. I remain a competitor, even if I am closer to the exit than to the beginning, I always want to confront myself with the best. »
He knew the best, especially in Tunisia, when he coached Espérance de Tunis (2015-2017), the country’s flagship club. “I learned to avoid taking a bottle or a phone to my head” he laughs, remembering the passion of the public. Getting serious again, he adds: “A very rewarding experience. You are the foreigner of the team, you are often criticized because in addition you are the coach. But I had a very competitive team with a majority of internationals. In terms of hand, I brought them things that they didn’t have in their culture. We played six finals in eight competitions…” In particular against Egyptian formations, another flagship country on the African continent.
He who wore the jersey of the France team 164 times (1987-1996) was part of the 1992 Olympics adventure in Barcelona (3rd place, first French handball medal), one of the pillars of the Barjots world title 1995 would have liked to lead a selection: “That’s what would suit me the most, you have very high level players. Maybe it’s not too late? For now, Denis Lathoud still has his mind at PSG: “An Everest awaits us! »