EXCLUSIVE – Hans-Peter Wild: “If Labit and Ghezal commit, I’d be very happy”

From Wednesday, Hans-Peter Wild, urgently returning to the bedside of his club, returned to meet Olympic Midi, at the origin of the unveiling of the likely arrival of Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal. Saturday, at the very beginning of the afternoon, he granted us an hour of occasional maintenance.

How did you react when you heard in Midi Olympique on Sunday evening that Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal were going to Stade Français in a few weeks?

I do not give a hoot. I shut up. You write what you want. I have other things to do than comment on speculation.

Were you worried that this announcement would destabilize the team?

No. […] I came to Jean Bouin a few days ago. I met Gonzalo Quesada, Thomas Lombard, Morgan Parra, Paul Gustard and Kobus Potgieter (assistant coach, editor’s note) to clear things up. Then I left.

What did you tell them or what did you learn?

Gonzalo will remain at the helm until the end of the season and then he will leave the club. We agreed on that. If Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal join us then I would be very happy as it will be a way to raise the level of professionalism of the French stadium. What have we achieved in five years? (he replies in French) “Not much…” We injected tons of money and we didn’t win anything.

Did you learn from it?

Yes: you can’t buy success, you can’t. Rugby is a group dynamic. When Heyneke Meyer signed with us, he said to me: “the players play for their coach”. The current players also play for Gonzalo and they proved that against Perpignan on Saturday. […] Gonzalo Quesada knows better than me which players to select. It’s his decision. He took it with his guts, with his sensitivity.

From that moment on ?

All that to say that the interview with Gonzalo last week went well and Morgan Parra told me during the trial: “Professional players will never let go of what they are here for: they will play rugby and defend the shirt, their employer. That is everything “. The rest is blah blah…

For real ?

Yes ! A few years ago I met several former club players at the Bristol (the hotel where he stayed during his visits to Paris, N.DL.R.). They said to me, “We don’t give a damn about the coach. But we’re the ones running the game.’ They are right. […] When I arrived in 2017, we were wrong. Fabien Grobon (the former CEO) knew nothing about it. Hubert Patricot, my friend for life, knew little more, even though he was on a whole new level. The problem is, he wasn’t there often. They called him “the ghost” in the club. What did we do then?


Please. Heyneke spoke no French; he had a translator. Thomas Lombard then told me to recruit Gonzalo Quesada, a very intelligent man whom I adore. These two worked together, but also encountered friction when the results weren’t there. According to Gonzalo, Thomas Lombard invested too much in the athlete and it was not his role for him. But their relationship has improved lately. They exchange more. But OK…

What ?

Nothing better happened. Last spring we had a ‘French style’ meeting. We talked a lot, but nothing came of it. I say “à la française” because we had to get from A to B, but instead we went through C, D, G, Z. We never got to B, but we all went to dinner together… That’s it.. A la française, what… (he sighs) When you say something, in the business world, I take it for granted. This is never the case with rugby.

Did Gonzalo Quesada then ask you to take full responsibility for the sports sector?

Yes. And on this point I agreed. He was the coach and had to make his own decisions. At the same time, a lot of hard work was done to revitalize the training and we are once again bringing forward international youth players who can now join the professional workforce. Previously there was no osmosis between the pros and the academy, of which eight players recently graduated.

Do you feel that things are moving forward?

I recently read that Stade Français was on a ventilator. That’s reasonable. Under Max (Guazzini, N.DL.R.) it was a party, they filled stadiums but they weren’t professional. Then Thomas gave Savare some money, but did not professionalize the club. We try to do it, even if we don’t win yet. Maybe we made the players too comfortable…

Which means ?

The players are well paid no matter what happens on the field and if there is even the slightest shortage, the owner (he, N.DL.R.) will make up for it. What a wonderful world, isn’t it?

Gonzalo Quesada has a contract until 2024. How are you going to fire him at the end of this season?

He gets paid until 2024, it’s that simple. And he will probably become national coach.

Don’t you think Gonzalo Quesada will be demobilized under these circumstances?

No. I trust him. (he pauses) Gonzalo Quesada knows rugby better than I do. I repeat to you that the players are following him.

So why did you extend the contracts of Gonzalo, Julien Arias and Laurent Sempere for a season before the start of this season?

To match all coaches to the same duration. Then the opportunity arose to have Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal. They are two great coaches and if they join us I would be very happy.

There is no reason for Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal not to come: your project appeals to them, their profiles appeal to you…

We still have a lot of details to work out and the focus must remain on the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

What will happen to Laurent Sempere and Julien Arias?

When a new team leader comes, talks will take place to build a staff. I am very grateful to Laurent and Julien, who helped us a lot when the club was in murky water after Heyneke Meyer left. […] Don’t worry, I don’t tend to mistreat people. “There will be no worries.”

Ditto for Paul Gustard and Kobus Potgieter?

Yes. But give us time to get things right. Nothing signed yet, I’ll call you back. Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal must first win the World Cup. It is a great responsibility for them. Don’t bother them with that sort of thing…

According to our information, Gonzalo Quesada has apparently lost confidence in part of his dressing room. What do you know?

You’re wrong. He may have lost the players who are not starters. But it’s the same in all the clubs in the world… Those who don’t play are disappointed. […] I think we have a good team and we will show it.

Do you think players can really be honest with you? You are their boss after all…

I don’t talk to them much. I ask them if everything is okay when I pass them; I check whether they are sharp or not, too big or not… I observe the attitude in the locker room and in the moments I can spend with the team. The players mainly express themselves on the pitch by the performance they have to deliver when they get the chance to wear the club shirt.

Are you satisfied with the recruitment of recent years?

Generally yes. The people who have arrived have the right frame of mind. I am proud of the behavior and character of these players. We used to deal with a lot of shit in the club, excuse the expression. […] But to be honest, I’m still very angry that we lost the only German player we had at the club (Oskar Rixen). He went to Brive and made good matches there! But I didn’t know when he was leaving.

Paul Alo-Emile will be absent for many more months due to severe depression. What are you going to do ?

We can recruit a joker. But above all, we have to help Paul on a daily basis. […] It’s a medical case. The hospital is not allowed to tell us much about Paul Alo-Emile and we respect that.

Will you release Paul Alo-Emile from his contract if he asks you to?

I don’t know. But before we consider such an extreme outcome, we will do everything we can to make it better.

What have you learned in five years of presidency?

It’s a difficult job… I didn’t understand rugby at first. I didn’t understand the dynamics. But I’ve learned it now. […] I know that no club owner is ever completely happy. Recently I went to see my friend, the chairman of the Hoffenheim club. He put hundreds of millions of euros into the club and Hoffenheim lost that day to a newly promoted. My friend was furious after the match. He was angry with his coach: “Why didn’t he play like this and like that? Or so and so? The coach is right when he wins and wrong when he loses. It’s that simple.