“The post-matches are terrible”

INTERVIEW – The 32-year-old journalist comments on Canal+ on the Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan. He talks at length about his job as a commentator.

At 32, he is already the voice of football on Canal+. He has already witnessed a number of dizzying turnarounds and stunning European displays. Paul Tchoukriel comments on a new big match this Saturday: Manchester City v Inter Milan in the Champions League final. The journalist, fed at Canal, is part of the line of Thierry Gilardi Or Stephane Guy where emotion and mood are as – or more – important than statistics. Interview with an enthusiast who almost became a professional football player after a stint at the AS Nancy Lorraine training center.

LE FIGARO.- You are commenting on a new Champions League final. How do you prepare for this type of big meeting?

Paul TCHOUKRIEL. – I prepare the same way for a “big game” or a less exposed meeting. You have to anticipate as many things as possible to approach the event relaxed because, in fact, you master few elements during a meeting. You have your securities with statistics, anecdotes, but all that can be shattered with the course of the match. For a Champions League final, there is more expectation so you have to manage that and not put yourself under negative pressure. But once the match is gone, it’s almost always the same. You have to be up to it, but without overdoing it.

What is your routine?

I try to change the way I prepare myself every year so that I don’t just fall into the wrong side of the routine. I comment on sixty matches a year, you have to stay fresh. It won’t surprise you, I watch a lot of football (laughs). I fill in the famous yellow Canal+ forms and established by Charles Biétry where I write all the info about the teams and the players and some statistics that I would use, or not, during the match. I use maybe at most between 5 and 10% of what I have written. Last year for Manchester City-Real Madrid, the confrontation was so phenomenal that nothing was used; we live in the moment.

More and more journalists favor statistics and want to be clinical when they comment. At the expense of mood and emotion…

I have the example in mind of my father who watched football matches on Canal 25 years ago. I heard him laugh to himself because Laurent Paganelli, who was already there, was giving the consultant a break or was going to see the players and the coaches. You have to keep a balance between stats and mood. You have to include the viewer: when my father watched a match on Canal+, I had the impression that he was a bit part of the gang. It is important to make subscribers feel that they are with us; that they are the twelfth man in the field. Delivering emotion is the very essence of our business. After come the statistics, information or anecdotes. Never pollute the game, never pollute the emotion. The consultant is there to bring his expertise: he is the one who played football.

But you’ve been in a training center and close to turning professional…

Yes, but I must not take precedence over the consultant. I haven’t won a World Cup (laughs). The viewer should not say to himself:Ah yes, he played football, so he tells himself.But when, with my gaze, something calls out to me, I will launch the consultant on it.

If I’m here, it’s because we decided that I deserve to be there and that I had the qualities to do that

Paul Tchoukriel

Do we comment on a football match in 2023 in the same way as ten or fifteen years ago?

No. People who watch football today are much more informed. Before, they had a global vision of what was going to happen on game night. From now on, we are flooded with information, from all sides. say today thatHaaland has scored so many goalsit doesn’t have much interest anymore: everyone knows it!

There is pressure from social media.At the beginning, you were very criticized.

It absolutely does not change my way of commenting because I have always refused to watch it because I do not want to be influenced by anything. Negative reviews are overrepresented on social media. It doesn’t affect me at all. You have to trust yourself. If I’m here, it’s because we decided that I deserve to be there and that I had the qualities to do that. And then it’s not necessarily the reality: in the street people are very benevolent.

What is a well commented match?

Rule number 1: don’t spoil the viewer’s moment. Then, it’s about finding the right balance between conveying emotion, mood and information. And not necessarily in that order.

Should we editorialize? Your predecessor Stéphane Guy did a lot of that.

You don’t have to give your opinion to give your opinion, but you can’t miss some of the things that people see. We cannot lie to them and say “everything is beautiful, everything is rosy”. You can’t oversell a game if it’s not good. For example, when I hear the Parc des Prince whistle Lionel Messi and Christophe GaltierI allow myself to say that it is not good and that they do not deserve the relentlessness of a whole stadium.

How are the post-games going?Are there nights when you say to yourself: “I missed this game”?

The post-games are terrible. It’s a bit common to all the commentators, but when you speak for an hour and a half without support, when you’ve given your all, there are bound to be errors, convoluted sentences… After the match, I only rehash the bad times. After 2-3 days, I listen to myself again and I tell myself that the commentary of the match was finally good. It’s a difficult exercise, but I have to do it to improve.

We are not going to quote a match so as not to offend anyone, but how do you keep motivation when commenting on a purge? ?

You have to keep a balance by telling what you see – what I was saying earlier -, but we are not going to spend 90 minutes dismantling the match that we are commenting on. It is in this type of meeting where we will put a little more mood and humor.

What are your role models?

I’m not going to be very original because I’ve always watched Canal+: Thierry Gilardi, Grégoire Margotton, David Berger. I really like what François Marchal does. There are plenty of colleagues who inspire me where I’m going to take something. When I was little, that’s what marked me, it was that I watched the matches on Canal and I had the right, on Sunday evening, to 15 minutes. When the ball went into touch, I had to go to bed. It was frustrating, but I thought to myself, Sunday night is the place to be!

What is the most beautiful goal you have commented on ?

The purpose of Rodrygo header against Manchester City last year. It’s not the most beautiful goal aesthetically, but professionally, it’s, I think, a very good comment. He equalized in the 90th minute and Madrid just missed a goal to snatch extra time. We feel with Habib that this is what will happen. There is a madness taking hold of the stadium. Habib said:Warning warning ! It’s going to be crazy, we’re going to live something irrational“. I’m in good time. And I have a stroke of luck. When I say that ” the earth is shaking“, the camera zooms in on Ancelotti and she moves with the jolts of the supporters. And in fact, it happens like in a dream: the words come, the rhythm is there, we are in the accompaniment of the event. People will say it’s a good comment because it’s related to the emotion they felt. Like Julien Fébreau with Pierre Gasly’s victory at Monza.

Marie-Jo Pérec explained that PatrickMontel had been the soundtrack to his exploits…

Yes it is true that there is a fusion between the commentator and the athlete. There is also the 4×400 meter title with Floria Gueï in 2014. Montel is wrong for 300 meters, he says it’s over. And she starts to go up and there he says: “So maybe.” This phrase is great because everyone feels it on their couch. He is the companion of people’s emotion and you forgive any mistake.

Next year, it will be necessary to comment Ligue 1 without Messi,maybe without Neymar.You have to find the motivation…

What is especially lacking in our championship is an identified and constant rival to Paris Saint-Germain. We have to say to ourselves at the start of the championship: the duel this season, that’s it! This is what happens in the Premier League where at the start of the season there are three or four clubs on the starting line.

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