June 8, 2023

INTERVIEW: Christophe Gamel looks to shape the future of Fiji

Christophe Gamel is the new man in charge of the Fiji Men’s National Team, taking the reigns at the start of the year, and he has wasted no time getting involved in every way he can.

Christophe Gamel is the new man in charge of the Fiji Men’s National Team, taking the reigns at the start of the year, and he has wasted no time getting involved in every way he can. 

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Christophe Gamel is Fiji’s Head Coach (Photo credit: Oceania Football Confederation)

The 44-year old Frenchman never had a big playing career but played for several smaller clubs in France and neighbouring Italy while also coaching youth teams. His way to the Fiji National Team has been a road of hard work all around the world.

His way to the Fiji National Team has been a road of hard work all around the world.

In 2007, he moved to Hungarian club Diósgyóri as a fitness coach, staying there for two years. He then moved to Qatar in 2009 and became the assistant coach of the Qatar U-17 National Team. After two years in the Qatari-setup, he became the assistant coach at Qatari club Al-Rayyan where he stayed another two years, until 2012.

After his stay in Qatar, Gamel returned to his homeland and became assistant manager of Paris Saint-Germain Women’s Team under Farid Benstiti.

Then, at the beginning of this year, Gamel was revealed as the new head coach for the Fiji National Team.

Now, just a couple of days before the Fiji team takes on the Solomon Islands in two friendlies and just two weeks until the final two 2018 World Cup Qualifiers against New Caledonia, Gamel gives an exclusive interview to Football in Oceania.

– We are out of the World Cup (the two losses to New Zealand in the last round means the Kiwis are uncatchable in Group A) and I got problems to prepare for the Solomons game because there is the Fiji FA Cup tournament and I will get my players three days before the game and very tired. I will have one real training to prepare this game so, it’s really hard but I will do my best. I will go with youth and use these four games to see the level that they can reach and continue my selection process.

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Gamel during his time at PSG, working under Farid Benstiti (right). (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

Gamel says he was made aware of the Fiji job by former New Caledonia manager Didier Chambaron, who is now working in the US.

– I started watching some games and I found the challenge interesting because there is potential in Fiji.

Gamel explains that he wants to implement a more “European type of play” as it is his background and that they tried to do just that it in the two matches against New Zealand but:

– Nothing comes overnight, we could have obtained a draw or win at home as my players did well but as amateurs, they make mistakes that we don’t see so often at professional level. […] but it gets better and better.

Gamel claims that his various roles around the world can help him in this challenge.

– Of course, when you travel and work abroad it shows how much you have to adapt yourself and understand the country where you work. All these experiences gave me pleasure, but in Qatar and PSG with my staff we got incredible moments and wins, Gamel says.

Gamel says his work as an assistant manager has given him the chance to work in different ways and that he relishes the extra challenge that comes with being a Head Coach.

– There is a different type of work when you are an assistant and it depends on your manager. I was all the time dedicated to the field and to train the team for someone else. I have enjoyed working in the shadow because it never changed my passion for glory and I like discretion and humility. Being Number One is another step, with more pressure and things to do, but I chose my work and even if sometimes it’s not easy, it is always a pleasure.

Having the chance to do this job it is not possible to complain, I don’t forget where I come from.

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Gamel during a session with the Fiji Men’s National Team. Is he making finger guns? Like it! (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

He has coached in countries with excellent facilities before so coming to Fiji is different for Gamel, not only on, or around, the pitch, but also off it.

– It is really different for different reasons – The football level in Fiji is amateur and my task is to bring a professional way, which is difficult – culturally it’s totally different because of the Island mentality. There’s also not a large choice of players, that’s why we are developing grassroots football. The facilities and means here in Fiji are not so much present and developed so I have to have lots of ideas, Gamel explains.

Gamel is really invested in the Fiji-project and he is involved at the youth level as well as with the women’s team, he is a man of many hats right now.

– I am involved with all national teams and I don’t forget the women’s National Team, because the future also belongs to the women. I will also develop youth national teams to prepare for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

In fact, Gamel also helped out the two Fijian teams who participated in the OFC Champions League, Ba and Rewa, offering advice along the way.

– I have followed our Fijian teams in the OFC Champions League, there is a gap between overseas teams and Fijian teams. We have to develop more of the local football, by making good competitions, developing Centres of Excellence, and most of all giving a new vision of football. But the most important thing will be to increase the number of coaches with diplomas and good football formation by having seminars. I will dedicate myself in this way to reduce this gap and I am sure that the teams will do well in the future.

Gamel clearly cares for football in Fiji and it will be interesting to see the development of the various teams around the country as well as the national teams.

Football in Oceania wishes Fiji the best of luck on their journey.

A huge thank you to Christophe Gamel for answering my questions. You can find Christophe on Twitter here. And you can follow the Fiji FA on Facebook here.

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