After a season without playing, Henri Saivet signs his return to France under the colors of Pau FC in Ligue 2 BKT. The 31-year-old Senegalese international evokes this period of doubts, the relief of finding a quality club and his return to this championship.
Henri Saivet, you are back after having had a blank season following the end of your contract at Newcastle. How did you manage to manage this?
It was a very complicated period because I had no medium or long term perspective. A year is extremely long. We come to wonder if we shouldn’t stop everything, if we are good enough… The fact of having had opportunities to go to the Gulf countries motivated me. I told myself that there were still people who believed in me, but my priority was to stay in Europe and in France.
Finally, wasn’t your international status with big clubs a disadvantage when it came to finding a team during this period?
As I came from the Premier League, some clubs may have thought that it would not be possible financially. However, when some came to discuss with me, they were surprised by my position, because they saw that I had no particular pretensions. What I wanted was just to play football again. In addition, covid played an important role because many other players were in my situation, finding themselves without a club.
What have you put in place to remain competitive?
At the beginning, I said to myself that I was going to talk to me to be ready in case of opportunity. I have always kept the flame. The times when there was nothing concrete were complicated. However, I remained positive, telling myself that things were going to evolve in the right direction. And this was the case with Pau FC.
“In the first training, I kicked all the balls! »
Finding yourself having to train on your own was not going to be easy…
At first, the frequency of my training was important but, as I went along, I told myself, depending on the time of the season, that I could do a little less. Because I knew that the clubs were no longer going to recruit. So I reduced my sessions a bit… Which also allowed me to get some air, to see something else. No longer being 100% focused on football has undoubtedly allowed me to maintain myself mentally and not to crack.
So what was your method to help you think about something else?
I used basketball as an escape, playing a little, but mostly going to games. I traveled to the United States to see the NBA. And as I know some French players, I also went to watch French championship matches.
And finally, contacts with Pau FC have materialized to allow you to have your chance. How did you feel at that moment?
I was already very happy that Pau FC gave me the opportunity to train. Because logically, they were wondering about my level and probably wondering: “How is it that this player is free? “. Having achieved their goals 15 days from the end of last season, the club invited me to join them to see where I was. During the first training, I had become a kid again, I was kicking all the balls! It was a relief for me. Finding the field, communicating with other players, scoring goals and making an effort, I had sorely missed all of this.
“Pau FC can be a surprise this season”
This test turned out to be conclusive since you signed for the Pau club on July 1st…
After this first training, coach Didier Tholot told me that he was really surprised and that he was happy that I was there. This test period therefore went very well and we quickly reached an agreement with Pau FC. I am delighted, because it is the club that I needed.
By returning to competition with Ligue 2 BKT, are you setting goals for the season?
It’s hard to do that at the moment. The idea is first to find my physical level and, then, according to the needs of the team, I hope that I can help it to cross a level, to bring my experience to it. Because the season promises to be difficult with four descents and two climbs. It will be important to show our character to achieve the goal of maintenance. But I think Pau FC can be a nice surprise of the season. There have been a lot of arrivals this summer, so there is still chemistry to be found, while everyone finds their bearings.
And what about your contribution in the field?
At this point in my career, my contribution can first be technical, like helping the team keep the ball in a high position. I’m selfless so I try to get my teammates to play well. I have a midfield training even if, when I started at the Girondins, I played up front and on the sides. I’ve always enjoyed playing the game. But Didier Tholot appreciates having different systems, so I can also play well in a three-man environment, in box to box, in support of the attacker or on one side.
Besides, did you know Didier Tholot before coming to Pau?
I’m a fan of the Girondins so I already knew him as a player (Didier Tholot played in Bordeaux between 1995 and 1997). And then he trained next to Bordeaux, in Libourne. I even played against his team in the Europa League when he was a coach at FC Sion (with Bordeaux, 2015/16). I find someone sincere and honest. He told me clearly what he was going to do with me and he respects it.
In addition, Pau FC made a name for itself by signing the first Vietnamese in the history of Ligue 2 BKT, Nguyen Quang Hai. How is it going with him?
There is the language barrier so he is with an interpreter who teaches him the basics of football and our first names. But it’s going well, even if there can be hiccups in the communication on the ground. It’s normal because he has everything to learn and comes from the other side of the world. He puts in a lot of effort and has already made good progress since his debut. He is an interesting player and we have already seen that he has a good left foot. He is still a little shy, because he does not know his new environment well. We encourage him to let go more. We keep telling him that if he’s there, it’s because he’s good!
This arrival also symbolizes the evolution of Ligue 2 BKT, especially since your first stint 11 years ago with Angers SCO (from January to June 2011)…
When I evolved there, it was another style. It was much more physical. The referees let me play more, which gave a game to the English. I remember my first match at Boulogne-sur-Mer, it was raining a lot, the ball hardly rolled, it was a fight! Today, the lawns are much better, the players have improved in quality, so it plays more. But I have always followed this championship. Last year, I watched Toulouse with its ultra attacking game or the AJ Auxerre of my friend Gaëtan Charbonnier, with whom I played in Angers. And I also observed the Sochaux of Omar Daf, with whom I worked a little with Senegal. I watched what he put in place, because I had the opportunity to discuss with him his playing intentions when he passed his diplomas. Even if I don’t have all the squads in mind, I think I have seen at least one player in all the Ligue 2 BKT clubs! Zargo (Touré) in Dijon, Paul Lasne at Paris FC, with whom I trained in Bordeaux, or even Matthieu Gorgelin (HAC), whom I met in the young French team…