Fred Bougeant: from Fleury via Senegal to Rostov
2016 has a been a very busy year for Fred Bougeant. Up until June, he was at the wheel in Fleury les Aubrais, a club which made its first and, until now, only appearance in the EHF Champions League. Then he led the Senegal women’s national team in the African Championship, before announcing in December that he would be replacing Jan Leslie on Russian side Rostov-Don's bench. If all this was not enough, he welcomed his first baby boy, Rafael, in September. He looks back with eurohandball.com on this crazy year and forward on what awaits him in Russia.
eurohandball.com: Fred, we did not expect you back quite so soon...
Fred Bougeant: Why not? My wish has always been to wait until my son is born before I sign a new contract. I wanted to enjoy the adventure with the Senegal national team completely and I fulfilled my mission entirely.
I also wanted to make myself available around the December/January period as there are often changes in big clubs at that time. Stepping up in January with a new club is something I have never done before and I like doing things for the first time! Rostov was my first choice and I'm very happy we've come to an agreement quickly.
eurohandball.com: What are your memories from your adventure with Senegal?
Fred Bougeant: On the human side, I would say I'll always remember the joy, the simplicity and the honesty that you can find in African handball teams. We worked a lot on their capacity to switch from a party mode to a work mode in no time. The African championship was a very big deal for all of us, but we managed to build something great, reaching the final with only four players playing in the French first league. It was a great reward for the staff and me to help them fulfil their goal.
eurohandball.com: Are you disappointed how the adventure with the Senegal women’s team ended (after winning their semi-final against Tunisia, Senegal were disqualified from the tournament for using ineligible player Dongo Camarâ, who had already previously played for the French national team)?
Fred Bougeant: On a personal level, not really. I've learnt over the years not to make myself angry about things I can't control; refereeing, things that happen behind the curtain, I can't do anything about that - remember, I used to be a devil on the sidelines five or six years ago (laughs).
I'm more disappointed for the girls, who had invested themselves at 110% in the tournament, who had built major success even though most of the federation people are working for free - they're not getting paid. These are the people I'm the saddest for.
eurohandball.com: From Senegal to coaching Rostov, one can say that is a huge leap?
Fred Bougeant: Yes, but I like to remember where I come from. Senegal was a bit like Le Havre, where I started my coaching career. Rostov is where I want to go, meaning I want to win the Women’s EHF Champions League. Their choices are very precise, this is a big organisation and they are giving themselves the opportunities and ways to win.
eurohandball.com: Do you feel any kind of pressure from the club?
Fred Bougeant: I'll be honest, I feel really good. Le Havre was where I could feel the pressure because I wanted to win for the city, for where I came from, for my friends in the club. With Rostov, talks have been really clear from the beginning. We didn't talk about wages, we talked about sports, about handball and about how we could make the club project move forward.
What I want to do this season is very clear - win everything. This means both Russian competitions and the Women’s EHF Cup. I'll have to work a little bit with my player’s heads, because I can sense that some are damaged at the moment.
I'm not in Russia now, but I’ll be there very soon. I'm working with the staff via the internet and I've talked with the players; they're looking forward to working together with me, as much as I am with them.
eurohandball.com: Players sometimes talk about going abroad to test themselves and get away from the ‘safe’ option, did the same kind of feeling fuel you too?
Fred Bougeant: Definitely. I wanted to escape the ‘safety’ of French handball. It might be blunt to say, but I'm the first one to try my luck as a number one coach abroad. I wanted to feel how those players feel, being out of your comfort zone, arriving in a city where you don't speak a word, where you are far from your relatives. My wife and my son will be coming with me, but I'm sure at some point I'll miss the family. But this is what builds you as a man and a handball professional.
eurohandball.com: The Rostov-Don Women’s EHF Cup campaign starts next weekend. What are your expectations for the group phase?
Fred Bougeant: The first thing I can tell you is that Rostov had the toughest group both in the Women’s EHF Champions League and the Women’s EHF Cup this season, so the EHF is not making it easy on us (laughs).
Seriously, we know it will be a tough fight, with ERD, Bietigheim and Trondheim all wanting to beat us.
I'm going to change some things compared to what Jan Leslie did. I think that, in a post-Olympics season, you should rely on all your players, not only some of them.
Everybody's tired, everybody needs some rest. I'm not judging anything, that's just how I see things from the outside. I want to bring freshness back into the Rostov team, and I'll work just how I worked with Fleury last season in the Champions League.
I'll give it my all, and more.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / amc