Louis Saha was a member of the France squad that reached the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, so knows all about what is required to succeed at a major event.
In part two of his in-depth chat with FIFA.com, Saha speaks about what makes Didier Deschamps such a good coach - and what made him such a good player - as well as his fears for France as they approach Brazil 2014.
This thought-provoking interview also touches on racism and the public's perception of footballers. If you missed, part one, please click on the 'Saha: Sir Alex is something special ' link on the right hand side.
FIFA.com: You published a book in your name last year (Thinking Inside the Box: Reflections on life as a Premier League footballer). Not many footballers do that while they are still playing - what was the thinking behind that?
Louis Saha: The thinking was to try and help give a normal story of a player who was being very open on everything. As a player who has played at a few clubs I have a few different stories to share. I thought it was the best time to publish but now I have one more chapter with my time in Italy! I do think that it was important for me to express it. I’m someone who is very quiet and discrete but I wanted to share it with the young boys.
If you were to pass on one piece of advice to a young striker, what would it be?
Firstly it would be to listen to advice and the main target is to keep improving. When you’ve got that in you and you want to improve every day, you won’t be caught by other youngsters. It is not because you are 30 that you have to stay the same player that you were. For example, you should watch a player like Giggsy (Ryan Giggs). When you see a player like him at his age who keeps running and tracking back and working for his team-mates – he keeps trying to improve – that is a very big talent and that would make a very good career.
The passion you have for the game really came out in the book, what does playing football mean to you?
It means a lot because first of all some people have got the wrong views on players, and especially young players, the way we have grown up as perhaps ‘selfish boys’. I am not saying that is not completely true, but I tried in the book to explain why because obviously in this world you have to learn to protect yourself. Some people might say that protection, a kind of arrogance, or not being very open to other people is somehow being a ‘bad guy’ but it is not. It is just the way that things are set up to be a footballer – you have to be like this to protect yourself. So many people will misinterpret that. I have tried to explain that situation in the book.
Have you thought about how you want to spend your time after you hang up your boots?
I don’t really know – I have thought about it. It is very hard when you are passionate about what you’re doing and the football life. It’s hard to look at other things that you want to do. Management or being involved with young players is something that I will look at because it’s something that I really like. Football is my life and it’s all about giving back. I need to find what is the best way for me and my qualities. I don’t think that I know everything so I need to go back to school and learn.
What are the personal qualities that have made Didier Deschamps a top coach?
As a player when you have his background and that experience, you will always get the respect straightaway from the players so as a manager everything comes very easy. When you have been a captain, it’s all about giving to others and he has that quality so he will require from his players a good understanding of the work ethic. It is all about his desire to find a good balance between the strikers, midfielders and defenders to work together for his team. When he was playing for France or for Juventus he was always trying to compensate for others to play. When he was playing with such a big talent as Zinedine Zidane, he was doing the dirty work which allowed Zidane to play. That is his quality, to find players who are able to give their all for someone else’s quality.
You helped France to the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ Final. If France do qualify for Brazil 2014, how well do you think they will do?
I’m just hoping that they qualify! That is going to be a great competition that is going to be really tough with some really good teams. This generation needs now to improve and get to higher stages. When you see that you are not in the top ten teams in the world there is something wrong – that is the aim for the French squad.
What do you think can be done to help rid the game of racism?
I was thinking about it when we had an issue with racism in Lazio and we had fans banned for home games. I don’t think that was a good way to punish any kind of discrimination. At the same time we should invite the away fans. We should not just stop the home fans from coming but obviously to make the home stadium an away stadium – this would be a really painful experience for anyone who has let something bad happen in their stadium.
Have you encountered racism?
Yes, I have. I tried to react in the best way. It is very hard because it is something very passionate. When you are in that position it is obviously very hard to act properly. When you have kids you try to raise them in the right way. You have to make sure that people who are facing that have to react in the right way. People should not look back and say ‘I didn’t hear anything’ – that is not the way to work against something. You have to make sure that people learn from their mistakes. When you see a mistake you act against that – to make sure that they learn from it. You have to make people aware that is something wrong, something that is not normal. There is only one way to fight racism, and that is to act.