Djorkaeff stars in latest edition of Living Football 

15 Apr 2021
  • The latest episode of ‘Living Football’ headlined by world champion Youri Djorkaeff

  • The 1998 FIFA World Cup winner discusses that memorable breakthrough success

  • Also in focus are the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup and the US Virgin Islands

Welcome to the latest episode of Living Football, FIFA's new Football Magazine Show. In this fifth episode, we feature former France international Youri Djorkaeff (82 caps, 28 goals).

The current CEO of the FIFA Foundation, who is directing all his energy to "use the power of football to find solutions to social problems", looks back on the greatest moment of his professional career: helping Les Bleus lift the FIFA World Cup™ on home soil at France 1998. The foundations for that success were slowly pieced together by coach Aime Jacquet, who building on his side’s run to the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 1996, moulded it into a team capable of winning.

"Between 1996 and 1998, we didn't play very well but we did win all our matches," said the player known as 'The Snake'. "The media were very critical of the national team and the fans didn't like our playing style, which was very defensive."

Everything, however, came together in their opening game: a 3-0 win over South Africa.

"We felt like we were being carried on a wave, and the Marseille public were incredible," said Djorkaeff. "When we ran out on to the pitch, we saw all these people who adored us, who were backing us, painted blue, white and red. That freed us up.

"Christophe Dugarry's first goal was the catalyst for this World Cup and allowed us to tell ourselves, ‘Now we're at home and in our own back yard, and it's going to be very difficult for any team to beat us’.”

Djorkaeff also talks about the role played by his father, an Armenian immigrant and former France international. It was him that Youri was thinking of when taking his penalty against Peter Schmeichel's Denmark.

"I’d seen an article the same day with photos of my father, who was captain of the French team," he said. "One of them showed him converting a penalty – one of the few goals he scored for them.

"Then it occurred to me that maybe it was a sign, so I sent my spot-kick to the same side as my father. Peter got a hand to it but I still managed to score!"

Zinedine Zidane is congratulated by France team-mates Youri Djorkaeff, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly after opening the scoring against Brazil in the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ Final. Les Bleus won 3-0 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris with Zidane scoring twice.

Combining generations

Another world champion joined Djorkaeff via video link to share his memories of that World Cup: Patrick Vieira, who was only 22 at France 1998.

"In that side, he was like a big brother, an exemplar," said the former Arsenal midfielder. "My generation, that of Thierry [Henry], David [Trezeguet] and Robert [Pires], were the young guns of that French team. Our success was down to Youri’s generation, because they were able to manage their careers and were positive role models for us."

For his part, Djorkaeff lauded the role played by the younger team members during that tournament and the manner in which the different generations gelled.

"There was no split in the group, with young people on one side and veterans on the other, or between those who started and those who didn’t," he said. "The strength of that French team came from the way the young players adapted to an already-established group, combined with an understanding on the part of the senior players of the need to create the best possible environment for the youngsters."

This episode of Living Football also discusses the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia/New Zealand 2023™ with former Football Fern Kirsty Yallop. Finally, we have a video from the US Virgin Islands, which shows us how FIFA's Covid-19 aid plan there has enabled football to bounce back.