Linas (France) (AFP)
Little Linas-Montlhery’s players face a dilemma when they face powerful Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup on Sunday.
“We can’t hurt them, we have to win the Champions League,” said Hermann Colin Kouassi, left-back of the sixth-tier club.
Like most of his teammates, Kouassi is a hardcore PSG fan.
The club, where Tottenham’s Tanguy Ndombele played in his teens, is named after neighboring cities in the southern suburbs of Paris, Linas and Montlhery, which have an overall population of just 7,000.
Their normal home ground is 26 kilometers from PSG’s Parc des Princes, although it is too small to host Sunday’s 64 round game.
Unless PSG rests their stars, Kouassi could find himself trying to stop his heroes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
“It’s the game of my life, the game of my dreams,” he said.
Captain Johan Roca spent four years in the PSG youth system from 2000 to 2004.
“It’s very exciting, there are many memories, but only good memories,” he said. “And I’m a supporter too!”
Coach Stephane Cabrelli even owns a PSG subscription.
“I am 52 years old, I have been going to Parc des Princes since I was six years old,” he said.
“The players I support all year round, playing against them, is obviously a little bizarre.”
The match will be played in nearby Bondoufle, where the expected 15,000 crowd will increase the familiarity of the event for the home team.
Roca insists he is not very discouraged.
“We are here to win,” said the captain. “We don’t have much chance of doing it, we’re not very optimistic, but we won’t give up.”
Before the big match the amateurs tried to avoid excesses during the holiday period by increasing their training schedule, said goalkeeper Ali Lutumba.
They had three sessions in the Christmas week and four this week, the last Saturday in Marcoussis, the nearby French national rugby center.
Neymar was injured in a French Cup game against Strasbourg at the end of last January and missed Manchester United’s elimination of the PSG Champions League.
Yet even with the first leg of PSG’s Champions League round of 32 against Dortmund on February 18, Roca says he won’t back down.
“We will play 100%, and it is not this game that will determine whether they will go far in the Champions League,” he said.
For Linas-Montlhery the cup is also a distraction.
They have an advantage in their pool in the Paris area, one of the 13 areas in the French regional leagues and the possibility of guaranteeing the only place of promotion to the next level.
© 2020 AFP