the fabulous destiny of Fréjus Zerbo

[Attention, spoiler] Whether in 2021 or in 2022, Aix-Maurienne will be invited to the Leaders Cup Pro B final. Why? Simply because this is the only final Frejus Zerbo (2.08 m, 31 years old) has never competed in France. Perhaps also because he never took part in this competition. Because otherwise, “Le Tigre” has won almost everything: the Espoirs championship (2007 and 2008), the Ace Week (2011), the Pro B (2012), the Match of Champions (2012) and the French championship (2014 and 2015). Only the Trophée du Futur and the Coupe de France are missing, and again, it reached the final each time (in 2006 and 2011 respectively). So yes, we can say it almost with certainty: with the Ivoiro-Burkinabé in its ranks, history wants the AMSB to go to Disneyland Paris.

That said, whether the Leaders Cup final or not, whatever matters, the business is already good: sixteen years after having passed through Aix-les-Bains as an isolated miner, Fréjus Zerbo returns to Savoy as a double champion France. A new chapter in an unexpected career, born from a father’s desire to see his son make the most of his growth spurt even when he abhorred sport!

But between the shy 13-year-old teenager who used his first shoes on the bitumen of Abidjan and the hero of the title of the 2015 title of Limoges CSP, there was a great odyssey. A human odyssey, first, with the uprooting inherent in the sudden arrival in France. And a sports odyssey, obviously, as Fréjus Zerbo was going far away to make a career, he who had to learn everything at the training center in Le Havre as he landed there in the rough, practically without fundamentals.

While he never really considered the possibility of becoming a professional basketball player during his youth, the new Savoyard pivot will finally be eternally associated with the most historic club in French basketball, Limoges CSP. Of course, his jersey will never float on the ceiling of Beaublanc but “Zeeeeeerbo, Zeeeeeerbo” have often come down from the stands. This recognition came to reward the undeniable human qualities and loyalty of a player who was the only lasting element of the recent golden period of the Cercle Saint-Pierre. And a cult reinforced by an irrational performance during Match 4 of the final of Pro A of 2015 against Strasbourg where he turned into attack leader, him the shadow player par excellence, with 16 points to 6 / 8 and 5 rebounds for 18 evaluation in 23 minutes.

The proof also that he could perhaps have the means to pass this famous course which would have allowed him to become a real offensive threat? Endowed with an incredible physique, to the point that he is often mentioned as the most difficult to move Jeep ELITE player, but very technically fair, Fréjus Zerbo never finally knew how to get rid of the label that gave him was joined, that of a player embodying the notion of defensive toughness and sense of sacrifice. Almost even to the extreme since among the 384 players who had the honor of participating in the 2019 World Cup, he was the least prolific offensively in the club with only 3.2 points over 40 minutes of play!

Without going so far as to say that he will become the best scorer of Pro B, the Ivorian international could flourish more from this point of view next season. His responsibilities will certainly go beyond the simple fact of putting the screens well and catching the rebounds, even if his future coach Emmanuel Schmitt awaits him above all on his strengths. “I especially hope that he will bring us his qualities, namely his defensive involvement and his physical power. But it is clear that he will certainly play more than in Bourg. ”A real personal challenge for Fréjus Zerbo, who wants to know if he can be anything other than a rotation rotating at 10 minutes per match. For this, the preparation begins now. After being confined to his apartment in Bourg-en-Bresse, the neo-Aixois resumed the race. Before leaving the city of Burgundy at the end of the month, he took advantage of his last days in Ain to tell us his incredible story.

Double French champion, Fréjus Zerbo has entered the history of Limoges CSP
(photo: Limoges CSP)

A child who razed the walls:
“Basketball helped me accept who I was”

“I have a double culture, I grew up between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. My mother is Ivorian and my father is a Burkinabé who left to settle in Ivory Coast where he ran a service station. They lived in Abidjan and they sent me for a long time to Burkina Faso with my grandparents when I was little. It is something common with us. I was a reserved person, always in my corner. Rather a good student too. I was passionate about arms and military life. I could see myself studying to become an officer, it was something that fascinated me.

If there was one subject that I didn’t like at school, it was sports! We practically only did gymnastics. I was too tall and not coordinated enough to do it properly. I was fed up with this and suddenly, I always went to see the doctor to be dispensed. For several years, I did not do sport once! I really hated that. So much so that even today, people around me are amazed to see that I have become a professional sportsman.

I started basketball when I came back to Abidjan, around the age of 13. It had been at least six years since I last saw my father. When I got home, he was so surprised that I had grown up so much. He told me that I absolutely had to play basketball. And the next day, he went to enroll me in a small club in Abidjan. I really got drunk going there, I didn’t like it at all but since my father had signed me up, I had to … He had put his money to sign me up and buy all the equipment. Regarding that, I couldn’t say no. The first steps were very difficult. I didn’t know how to run, not dribble, I had no coordination. But what made me want to keep going was to see the others controlling the ball. I wanted to do like them and gradually, with a lot of will – because I really have a lot – I got there. I was sending the ball against the wall, I was trying to control it, to have touch it, to know how to catch it in the air, to change hands … I’m not even talking about running or shooting, just d ‘throw the ball against a wall! We were on concrete ground outside in Abidjan. When it rains, you run to find shelter. That was my daily routine: I didn’t really believe it, but I did it out of duty.

Basketball made me understand that my size could allow me to free myself and enhance myself. Because they made fun of me a lot when I was playing, since I was taller than everyone. This resulted in a huge lack of self-confidence, something that may still follow me today. I feel it in certain situations and it comes from my childhood. I suffered a lot of taunts because of my size. You are called the big brother when you are younger than the others. I razed the walls to go home because I did not want to meet the eyes of others. It’s something that takes away all your confidence, you isolate yourself, you shut yourself up. It was basketball that restored my confidence. I didn’t even think about making a living, just accepting who I was and basketball really helped me with that. “

Amazing first steps in France

“I arrived in France on a 15-day tourist visa (in 2004, note) … I found myself at the home of a cousin in Paris who knew an Ivorian friend of Jean-Manuel Sousa, the coach of Espoirs du Havre. The STB invited me. They wanted to keep me and took steps to extend my visa, but it was impossible. I only stayed there for a week. The only solution was therefore, supposedly, to return to the country to apply for another visa and return. It was out of the question for me! We had to find a quick solution, it was Aix-Maurienne, it was decided in 24 hours. However, I had my plane ticket to return to the country. Le Havre paid me for the train to Paris and I was supposed to go to Roissy. In fact, no … I found myself at Saint-Lazare station in the middle of autumn. It was 5 degrees and I only had a t-shirt. I stayed there from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. before someone came to pick me up and take me to take a night train to Chambéry at the Gare de Lyon. In Chambéry, it was the same. I stayed at the station from morning until late afternoon. There was another Ivorian who played in Aix-Maurienne, I lived a month with him. Then the same problem as in Le Havre arose and the only way to stay was to declare myself an isolated child. I found myself in a home in Chambéry, with people older than me, coming from all over the world. There were several of us in the rooms, it was really terrible. I didn’t even go to school. I had to spend three months there. I trained with the regional cadets of Aix-Maurienne, it was Sébastien Bozon who came to get me so that I could make the journeys between Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains (a little less than 20 kilometers, note). But suddenly, I felt that I could never break into basketball there. I was just training a little, there was no perspective, nothing. So, one day, I called Jean-Manuel Sousa, who was convinced that I had returned to the country, to tell him that I had stayed in France because Aix-Maurienne had managed to declare me an isolated minor. He offered to come back to Le Havre, I said yes. I was followed by a juvenile judge, so I had to transfer a file. Except that Aix-Maurienne initially refused to let me go because I had already signed a B license. But since it was the best thing for me, I won my case after doing the forcing.

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I spent almost eight years without seeing my parents after I left for France. I met my little sister for the first time when she was already 7 years old! This period made me grow suddenly. And you see, now when people see me for the first time, they can judge by the appearance and say to themselves: “Well, he’s an African, he’s tall and strong, he doesn’t have to be intelligent.” And then, when they come to speak to me, they realize that I am able to talk about everything, to argue about politics and other subjects. This maturity comes from there, from this distance with my parents, both when I was in Africa and in France, from having been lugged from host family to host family. I learned to always manage without anything … I cannot compare myself with people of my age, I went through so many life experiences that it allowed me to grow faster, it is sure… “

Le Havre (2004/09), the nursery:
“Our Hopes team, perhaps unprecedented in France”

“At that time, during my first months in Le Havre, I was in a kind of vacuum. I had no goal, I didn’t know what life was going to hold for me. Basically, I did what was asked of me with courage: I went to school and I played basketball. But I didn’t have enough qualities to tell myself that I was going to become a professional basketball player. Ditto at school: it was complicated because it was a whole new environment and I had not been there when I was in Chambéry. My future seemed completely blurred to me. I was totally uprooted but I was tremendously welcomed by some people in Le Havre. I owe them a lot, starting with Marie-Ange, an exceptional lady who unfortunately died, peace in her soul. But there is also Jean-Manuel (Sousa) whom I could never thank enough, and so many other people who, beyond basketball, took care of me so well that I could get used to life European. These people mean a lot to me. In exchange, I gave what I could to Le Havre.

Our generation in Le Havre was incredibly strong, unheard of in France I think. We finished double champions of France Espoirs. I think that’s what made me work more. When you arrive and you have Fabien Causeur, Pape Sy, Romain Duport, Rudy Jomby, Amath M’Baye, Gédéon Pitard, Ousmane Camara, Xavier Gaillou (as well as Mérédis Houmounou, Fabien Paschal and Abdoulaye Loum, among others, editor’s note). .. (blows) I don’t know how to say! And I forgot Ian Mahinmi who was there during my first year when he had just been drafted by San Antonio. All these beautiful people with Jean-Manuel Sousa, an exceptional coach, the best trainer in France in my eyes. He was unlucky on a professional level but he knew how to detect the qualities of the players, exploit it. The environment of Le Havre also allowed it. The club did not have a lot of resources and therefore had an interest in incorporating young people as quickly as possible into its professional workforce.

frejus-zerbo - a-destiny-limougeaud --- the-incredible-odyssee-of-the-tiger1591886125.jpegIn 2007/08, the young Le Havre armada where we recognize notably Rudy Jomby (n ° 6), Ousmane Camara (n ° 12), Amath M’Baye (n ° 14), Fréjus Zerbo (n ° 15), Pope Sy (n ° 10), Gédéon Pitard (n ° 7) and Xavier Gaillou. Despite the promotions of Fabien Causeur and Romain Duport in Pro A and the departure of Mérédis Houmounou to Évreux, the STB will once again be crowned champion of France
(photo: STB Le Havre)

[Si j’ai pu jouer aussi vite en Pro A, c’est parce que] I had a lot of willpower (first professional match in Pau on October 13, 2007, editor’s note). I am someone who has always known how to build on its strong point. I never give up, I work hard. I always did the dirty work, and that is especially what is asked of a young person. And in Le Havre, there was room for the Espoirs. If you did good things in training, Christian Monschau would give you a chance. Maybe at the time, I had too much respect for others. I saw them in front of me and I told myself that I had to chart my course. Whereas in high performance sport, you have to crush the other to exist. I did not have this mentality. In addition, at the time, I was behind, I looked at my teammates and I thought that such was really too strong. I did not have the mentality that is necessary, namely to crush the other to exist, I respected everyone too much. In the end, we all managed to do something in basketball, it’s exceptional. “

Gravelines-Dunkerque (2009/11), too high, too fast?
“Too much pressure and ambition”

“It was already good to play 7 pro games with Le Havre. It was not planned, I took everything there was to take. I decided to follow Christian Monschau at Gravelines-Dunkerque to finish my Espoirs course. But I quickly went into pro and it was a great season: I found myself in the five, I played well, the team almost qualified for the final (in the semi-final against Cholet, Gravelines led 1-0 and 61-44 at the 28th minute before collapsing, note). I liked the BCM, it was a good family club. I did a lot of individual work, notably with Yohann Casin, now physiotherapist at ASVEL. Unfortunately, the second year went bad. Gravelines had a lot of ambition in the championship and I had very little playing time. Fortunately, there was the European Cup: I played a lot in EuroChallenge, failing Pro A, and that made me given a lot of confidence. There was a hell of a team (which notably won Ace Week). It was difficult for me, I was still young, there was too much pressure and ambition. “

zerbo1591630794.jpegWith the BCM, Fréjus Zerbo won his first trophy: the Ace Week 2011
(photo: Karen Mandau)

Limoges CSP (2011/18), the love story:
“Nothing can ever replace Limoges”

“I had to leave from Gravelines to get more playing time and I received ten offers! There were Paris-Levallois, Orléans, Pau, Limoges, Bordeaux … I didn’t want to go to Pro B, it scared me. I only hesitated between two clubs, it was Pau or Paris. Christophe Denis showed me around the PL facilities and I was ready to sign with them. And at the last moment, I changed my mind to choose Limoges. I don’t know why and I still can’t explain it. Maybe it’s fate, but lo and behold, it was the best choice of my life! Limoges has become my home, my city. No matter how much I play in France, nothing can ever replace Limoges. I continue to receive lots of messages from supporters. They are exceptional people. This club there has something that nobody can have in France. All the other clubs may have money or whatever they want, you can’t replace Limoges, it’s impossible.

Pro B then the Giannakis method: contrasting beginnings

The first season in Pro B, we had such a team that I had a small role. I was stuck behind Chris Massie so I was content with the dirty work. It was complicated, we had to adapt to the Pro B, to the pressure of Beaublanc. Fortunately, we won the title, which was a release. It has been a long time since the CSP had won a title. Despite everything, I almost left the following summer. And the second season was not a personal success either. However, I had worked a lot during the off-season in Cannes. But it was too weird with Panagiotis Giannakis, he wanted to change everything and everything went wrong, individually and collectively. You can not do that ! Instead of going to the basics, we spent our preparation to modify things that we had acquired in the training center and we fell far behind. You are in a match, you find yourself thinking a lot about what the coach wants and suddenly, you are not yourself. I remember Jo Gomis: his game was something, but he couldn’t break free! Giannakis is a huge coach but Limoges is special, sometimes it doesn’t take. There are many parameters to take into account, the status is not enough.

zerbo1591810599.jpeg
June 16, 2012: Faller from Boulazac in the final at Bercy, the CSP wins its first trophy since the hat-trick in 2000
(photo: Sébastien Grasset)

2013 – 2015, the golden years but the permanent insurrection

It was Jean-Marc Dupraz who trusted me and in 2013/14, we had an exceptional team. During the regular season, people talked but inside the group, we knew that we had the necessary qualities to go to the end. Everyone was worried, even the supporters. We knew we had the most talented team, we just had to wait for the playoffs. We eliminated ASVEL in two dry runs and then there was an incredible semi-final against JDA Dijon, unbeaten at home until then and we had to go find a match there to qualify. Before we even started the final, we knew that Strasbourg had no chance. And it was confirmed in the first game. As soon as we won at the Rhénus, we knew it was folded. Winning a title at Beaublanc is an exceptional memory.

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The following season, the club builds an armada, but it’s weird because everyone leaves after winning the title. Only Nobel (Boungou-colo), Adrien (Moerman) and me are left. The start of the season was very complicated: many players changed, the coach was thanked when we were third. But Limoges is like that. There were just too many stories: endless meetings every week while we were on the podium. Everyone was seated, Fred Forte took turns calling and insulting us and then he moved on. We did not understand! Dupraz was constantly summoned, there were always threats to turn this or that player to take another, each game was decisive because if we lost … It was incredible. Everything Nobel explained at the LNB is true … There was indeed this famous meeting, before a match against ASVEL, where Fred Forte deprived everyone of wages, except Adrien, Nobel and me. Right after the meeting, there was practice. There was no pass, all the balls went to the stands … The players were broken, demoralized. The training was crappy, the guys were disconnected, they couldn’t even make a single pass because they were broken. It was unbelievable. And yet, we were champions … In fact, we had so many qualities in this team that there was not enough playing time to exploit the potential of everyone. Guys like Amagou, Gelabale, Batista or Plaisted all played between 10 and 15 minutes per game! On paper, our team could crush everyone but we were ultimately a mundane team because there was not enough playing time for everyone. What allowed us to exist is close matches, like in the playoffs. When we arrived in the playoffs, we were free, everyone could express themselves, be intense. And in the end, we crushed everyone.

frejus-zerbo - a-destiny-limougeaud --- the-incredible-odyssee-of-the-tiger1591904106.jpeg
“The Beaublanc audience and me, it’s a successful marriage”, smiles Fréjus Zerbo
(photo: Limoges CSP)

Limoges – Strasbourg, Match 4, June 20, 2015:
An evening for eternity

People are not paying attention, but if you look closely, I have always responded to the games that count. Surely because I do not feel the pressure, I have always been quiet and relaxed before major events. In the 2015 final, Adrien Moerman was injured during the playoffs. It was complicated, we take away our MVP, the soul of the team. I caught Ousmane before Match 4: “We, the interiors, we disappeared during Match 3. It is only the exteriors that scored and that made us win. Suddenly, Vincent Collet will block Throw and Smith and not respecting the interiors. He will say to himself: “Adrien is not there … Well, Fréjus? It does not matter. Ousmane? It does not matter. Batista? He cannot play. “” It was confirmed: without us, the interiors, we would not have won this match. I was motivated, confident, I had to prove something. I knew that you had to approach the match with a lot of courage and discipline. I entered, I tried to put my first screens then I took a first shoot. In. It freed me. Once in confidence, you enter a second state: you take a good rebound, you throw the ball, you run, you make a good defense, you come back, you put a second basket, you say to yourself “Ok I try again on the next possession “, third basket, OK. And you enter a bubble where your teammates trust you and spin the balloons for you. That day was my day (16 points at 6/8 and 5 rebounds for 18 evaluation in 23 minutes, note). But when I hear people saying it was a lucky day, it is not true. You had to have the qualities and the courage to make a final like that. There was a lot of pressure because we knew that if we lost and we left for Strasbourg for a fifth game, it was over.

The highlights of his 16 points against GIS

20 EuroLeague matches, stars in their eyes

Aaah, EuroLeague … It’s beautiful, I loved it. It is more suited to my profile: I defended on large interiors. My first game was at Maccabi Tel Aviv, against Schortsianitis, in an incredible atmosphere (it blows). Sofo was impressive, but it didn’t pose much problem for me. What is Sofo? He is a player who is very slow, who comes in for 5 minutes and who is bombarded with balls. You have to be ready cardio level to defend on it. Sofo, you shouldn’t wait for it in the racket but for free throws. You start to push it as far as possible, before it takes its position. As he is strong, he dribbles very little: he mainly uses his physique to place his hook shot. And suddenly, if he is far away, he will do the same thing but with a much better chance of missing.

Ioannis Bourousis was really complicated: he is very tall, technical, with good hands. It’s hard (it blows). Sometimes I stuck him but, a bit like Ali Traoré, he throws the ball and it makes a string. He feels basketball, he knows how to position himself, he has a good shoot. It is difficult to defend.

l-odyssee-du-tigre --- the-fabulous-destiny-of-frejus-zerbo1591955879.jpeg
“Sofo, you have to start pushing him with free throws”
(photo: Jean-Michel Majorel)

The beginning of the end

After the second title, I extend five years but the situation deteriorates quickly. What is Limoges? You can have a good start to the season, you’re good but there are so many events going on in this club in one season that you can become any player. The last example is Jerry Boutsiele: last year he was good and there he became lambda. There is too much pressure, too many things going on that are breaking your spirits. With Dusko Vujosevic, we did not understand the management of playing time: you could play 3 minutes like 30. His methods were not adapted to France; you could train from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., do one-hour warm-ups. The use of men was bizarre. He was sick, he didn’t have all his playfulness. I find it a bad choice of leaders to have taken it. I cannot question the work he did before, nor the man, he was a great coach but in France, he did not have the control of his abilities to manage a pressure club like Limoges. Afterwards, there are also things where it’s my fault like in the summer of 2016. I came back out of shape and this problem followed me until this season. I ended up being loaned to Antibes in early 2018. It was normal, I was coming back from an injury and the team was going well. I don’t have too many memories of this period. I arrived in poor shape and it was difficult to find a place because the club wanted to maintain itself. It was also complicated to come out of Limoges for the first time. However, the Sharks trusted me and I could not give them back, it remains across my throat.

frejus-zerbo - a-destiny-limougeaud --- the-incredible-odyssee-of-the-tiger1591904350.jpegAfter almost leaving for Monaco, it was finally in Antibes that Zerbo spent a half-season in 2017/18
(photo: Sébastien Grasset)

There have been so many stories in Limoges that I can’t even explain it to you. There have been too many things that should be turned into a book. But that was Fred Forte’s theory, it was part of his DNA. You had to create a story every year. If there is no story, it is not good. So he created all that, even if it means taking his Twitter, getting into conflict with someone, insulting the presidents of the league. It was his communication to him. Humanly, we had a special relationship between him and me. I liked him, he liked me. Without that, I don’t think I would have stayed as long at the CSP. His disappearance was a shock. On the day of his death, he was in training. We had to take a plane the next day, January 1, to go to Italy. When he left the locker room, he said to me “Goodbye Fréjus, see you tomorrow”. It was 1 p.m. At 5 p.m., he died. It was so brutal … When we look at the CSP today, we realize that Limoges cannot be managed by just anyone. It takes a strong man, someone feared by everyone. The CSP cannot have a normal, respectful leader. Limoges needs an insulted, hated leader who does the job. It’s the same for the players: you need character to succeed in Limoges. Something is needed, temperament. Emotional players don’t work. Anyway, you will leave Limoges marked for life.

Personally, temper it, I don’t show it but I have it inside. Everything I got in Limoges, I went to get it because they never gave me anything. At the start of each season, there were 3 or 4 interiors in front of me. All my career, there have been doubts about me, I have never been given anything and at the end, I was still there. I was never a favorite. And for that, you need temperament. I can say that I have made a small place for myself in the great history of the CSP. It is a pride but I am not the only one: there is also Nobel, Adrien or Ousmane. Besides, even if they don’t say it, Ousmane and Nobel know it: the best moments of their career will remain in Limoges. With hindsight, when you are inside, you do not feel the magic side … With the passing years, you say to yourself “wow” … It is something that comes as experiences in d ” other clubs. We cannot compare the CSP with what we are experiencing now.

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frejus-zerbo - a-destiny-limougeaud --- the-incredible-odyssee-of-the-tiger1591904178.jpeg“When I look at Ousmane or Nobel, I know that they had their best moments in Limoges”
(photo: Limoges CSP)

I do not criticize leaving Limoges. It’s life, it’s normal, there are cycles of renewal. At one point, I wasn’t even comfortable anymore because everyone was gone. I no longer knew anyone, not even the physiotherapist. I was the only elder. I could almost feel deep inside that it was about time I left. But what I didn’t like was the way. Avec tout ce que j’ai donné à Limoges, je n’ai pas aimé toute la mesquinerie qui a précédé la séparation, tous les coups bas. Mais je n’en veux à personne. Un club, ce n’est pas un individu mais c’est beaucoup de choses. Personnellement, j’adhère à l’histoire de Limoges, aux supporters… Les individus font ce qu’ils veulent mais je suis attaché au club de Limoges.

Bourg-en-Bresse (2018/20), de retour sur les rails
« Je ne pense pas qu’il existe un club français
plus professionnel que la JL »

« Le bilan de mes deux saisons ici est positif. C’est un club qui m’a permis de me remettre au travail, de prendre soin de mon corps. Il y a toutes les installations qu’il faut. Il y a des gens géniaux, c’est un club familial. Franchement, les gens sont trop sympas : Fred (Sarre), le président, le coach, les assistants, tous ceux des bureaux. J’ai beaucoup plus d’histoire avec Limoges mais la JL Bourg fait partie des clubs dont je parlerai après ma carrière. Cela va devenir un grand club à ce rythme. Peut-être que j’aurais déjà arrêté ma carrière si je n’étais pas venu à Bourg. Après Limoges, je voulais prendre du recul, ne pas rejouer de suite. Quand la JL m’a récupéré, je n’étais pas du tout en forme. Je ne pouvais même pas faire deux allers-retours, j’étais complètement à la ramasse. Ils m’ont fait confiance malgré tout et je ne peux pas l’oublier. Je pars sans rancune, c’est le jeu des objectifs qui se renouvellent. C’est un club exceptionnel et très bien géré, il n’y a rien à dire. Limoges a beaucoup plus d’histoire mais il y a des qualités que j’ai trouvé ici que le CSP n’a pas : il y a beaucoup plus de professionnalisme, d’écoute, d’attention aux détails. Cela n’a rien à voir ! Selon moi, honnêtement, je ne pense pas que tu peux trouver plus professionnel que la JL Bourg en France. Peut-être l’ASVEL, je ne connais pas. Mais l’argent ne fait pas tout. Ce n’est pas parce que tu as un gros budget que tu as forcément un gros niveau de professionnalisme. Je ne connais aucun ancien joueur de la JL Bourg parti d’ici en pensant que ce club est merdique. “

zerbo1591809769.jpegAvec la JL, Fréjus Zerbo a retrouvé le sourire… et son état de forme
(photo : Christelle Gouttefarde)

Un joueur de l’ombre, mais pas plus ?
« Je me suis enfermé dans un rôle à Limoges,
je n’aurais pas dû y rester aussi longtemps »

« C’est vrai que c’est compliqué. Les gens ne se rendent pas compte que le rôle de joueur de l’ombre est très difficile. On te demande de tout donner en 5 minutes. Sauf que tu ne peux pas être certain de réussir un passage de 5 minutes. Il y a eu des moments cette saison où j’étais en pleine forme mais je ne pouvais pas le montrer. Ça engendre une certaine frustration. Je ne rejette pas la faute sur quelqu’un, je ne l’ai jamais montré, je suis toujours resté calme dans le collectif. Peut-être que c’est un défaut, des gens pourront dire que c’est un manque d’ambition. Prenez n’importe quel joueur, moi ou un autre, mettez-le derrière un pivot dominant, ce sera la même chose : il ne pourra pas jouer plus de 10 minutes par match et ne pourra donc pas faire grand chose. C’est difficile d’être productif en 5 minutes : parfois, tu peux tout réussir sur un passage et ne pas être capable de le reproduire sur les trois matchs suivants.  Quand tu regardes les grosses équipes, tu es obligé d’avoir des joueurs de devoir. C’est impossible de gagner sans. Le joueur qui joue 5 minutes mais qui ne dit rien, qui se fond dans le collectif, est primordial. Ça permet aux autres de se dire : “mais ce gars-là, il travaille dur à l’entraînement et il ne joue pas beaucoup, comment moi je pourrais me plaindre ?” Par exemple, à Limoges, en 2015, sans Ousmane et moi, je ne suis pas sûr qu’on gagne le titre à la fin. Pendant toute la saison, on a fait un travail de sape. On cassait les autres intérieurs, on les bourrait de coups, on les faisait tomber par terre, les meneurs ne pouvaient pas entrer dans la raquette sans prendre un stop… Cela ne se voit pas dans les statistiques mais c’est très important.

zerbo1591809805.jpegL’impact physique de Fréjus Zerbo est pratiquement sans équivalent en France
(photo : Christelle Gouttefarde)

Si, à force, je me suis “caricaturé” et oublié offensivement ? Oui, peut-être, mais… Je vais encore reprendre l’exemple de Limoges : rester sept ans au CSP, je pense que c’était bon pour le club, peut-être pour moi mais pas pour ma carrière. Je n’aurais pas dû rester aussi longtemps. Pourquoi ? Cela m’a enfermé dans un rôle pendant sept ans et m’a enlevé le côté offensif. On te colle une étiquette et rares sont les clubs qui sont ensuite prêts à prendre un risque sur toi. Des fois, à l’entraînement, j’étais très fort en attaque mais je ne pouvais pas m’exprimer en match. C’est un problème qui devient mental : tu t’enfermes dans un rôle dont tu ne peux plus sortir. Le fait de rester trop longtemps à Limoges m’a conforté dans ce rôle et ne m’a pas permis d’explorer d’autres possibilités, peut-être d’avoir d’autres responsabilités. Cela ne veut pas du tout dire que je regrette d’être allé à Limoges évidemment mais sept ans dans le même rôle, c’était trop long. Je peux faire un parallèle tout bête en exemple : Charles Kahudi. Lui, il l’a compris. Au début, il était avant tout connu pour ses qualités défensives et il a su sortir de ce rôle-là, ce qui lui a permis d’avoir une toute autre carrière. Personnellement, je l’ai compris trop tard, après avoir quitté Limoges. “

La fierté de représenter la Côte d’Ivoire

« Mon pays me tient à coeur. Choisir la Côte d’Ivoire plutôt que le Burkina Faso, c’était un choix naturel pour moi. J’y suis plus attaché et sportivement, il y a beaucoup plus de talent. Cela offrait la possibilité de jouer sur la scène mondiale alors que l’équipe burkinabé est beaucoup plus faible. Jouer pour le pays, c’est un cran au dessus. Il faut le vivre pour le comprendre, ce sentiment est indescriptible… Même si les gens ne te connaissent pas forcément, tu as l’impression de porter tout le monde sur ton dos. Toute ma famille en est fier ! Personne n’a été sportif donc c’est moi qui porte le mieux le nom Zerbo. Je voulais faire absolument faire une Coupe du Monde, c’est une fierté d’y avoir pris part l’année dernière. Je n’ai pas encore pris ma retraite internationale. Il reste l’AfroBasket en 2021 et je pense que tout le monde arrêtera après. “

l-odyssee-du-tigre---le-fabuleux-destin-de-frejus-zerbo1591951876.jpegLe bilan de Fréjus Zerbo avec les Éléphants est inachevé :
une quatrième place à l’AfroBasket 2013 et 0 victoire lors de la Coupe du Monde 2019
(photo : FIBA)

Aix-Maurienne, retour à la case départ
« Je veux savoir si je suis capable d’avoir plus de responsabilités »

« J’avais d’autres propositions mais Aix-Maurienne est arrivé assez tôt avec deux ans de contrat à la clé. J’aurais pu rester en Jeep ÉLITE mais cela fait deux ans que je n’avais pas eu de grand rôle (7 minutes de moyenne avec Bourg, ndlr). Je ne voulais plus avoir aussi peu de responsabilités. J’ai la chance d’avoir reçu beaucoup de propositions donc j’ai vraiment pu choisir. Le coach m’a appelé, il me voulait vraiment. Je me suis renseigné sur lui, ça a l’air d’être une bonne personne. En plus, signer pour deux ans, cela permet de se sécuriser aussi par rapport aux temps qui courent. Avec la pandémie, je ne voulais pas attendre.

C’est une belle histoire que je revienne à Aix-Maurienne. Cela a beaucoup compté. Même si je suis parti de là-bas en mauvais termes, c’est très important de ne pas oublier. C’est le début. Exactement, je vais retracer tout mon parcours là-bas. Je vais retourner voir le foyer à Chambéry et tout. J’ai gardé des contacts avec des anciens animateurs, etc. Même avec le magistrat qui m’a autorisé à rester, on s’appelle de temps en temps !

Sportivement, je voulais m’éclater, avoir plus de responsabilités et surtout me tester. Je veux savoir si je suis capable de le faire, c’est très important poir moi. C’est un challenge personnel de se dire que je vais dans une équipe où ils vont vraiment compter sur moi. Et je vais répondre à leurs attentes. Si je n’y arrive pas, peut-être que je pourrais me dire : “Ok, je n’ai pas les capacités pour le faire”. Je ne tricherai pas. Je suis un joueur qui a su s’appuyer sur ses qualités et qui a tout donné. Ça peut être critiquable, j’ai pu faire de mauvais matchs mais pas une seule fois, je n’ai pas donné tout ce que j’avais. Et cela continuera avec Aix-Maurienne. “

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