Pleased with his team’s qualification to the championship semi-finals, Narbonne Volley president Jérémy Ribourel looks back on this victory over Sète (3-2). It also reminds of an exceptional season for the Centurions and the next showdown with the Tour, the main favorite for the final victory (Sunday, 5:00 pm).
This Wednesday night against Seth, volleyball won more than Narbonne?
I think this is the main thing. We wanted to go back to basics. It’s a pity we couldn’t do it with our public, because we knew that there would be no problems and that the safety of the Sète team would be ensured. It was a win game to end a five game streak. We knew in advance that two teams would be side by side. Even behind closed doors, we continued to play behind closed doors. We were at home.
The players played with great character…
I would say determination. They wanted to make amends a little, to say that they were still there. It was often said that they fell apart, but that was not the case. They were shocked but regained their color. They played with desire and love for the shirt. The players realize that the audience has helped them a lot this season. They wanted to play another game (return semi-final against the Tour, next Wednesday, 19:30 at the Arena, editor’s note)and perhaps others to play with the public.
You haven’t played in the semi-finals since 2013. What will it taste like?
I think we are completely liberated, because we managed to perform better than last season. (lost in quarter-finals to Cambrai). I’m not even talking about the European Cup, only the championship. Now all the bonuses for this season. Tours is a club that we have a lot of respect for everything they have done in volleyball. It’s a bit like our example, we’re excited to meet them in the semi-finals. In any case, if we want to win the championship, we have to go through this team.
“We are in the semi-finals of the French championship, it’s okay”
This is the second semi-final this season. Is it something exceptional?
We already won one (beginning of March, against Ljubljana in the Challenge Cup, ed.), so of course it gives some confidence. We are ready for anything that can happen in a match, even losing the first two sets and then coming back. For Narbonne Volley, these are the matches we want to play. My point is that if we win there in the first leg, we will have a huge advantage by hosting the second leg. We know how much we can surpass ourselves in front of our audience. We are ready for anything, even to return to the Tour, if necessary, for the third game. Everything is possible.
Where does the strength of the players in the Arena with such an audience come from?
The support of the public is important to them, and it will be even more important if we lose the first game on Sunday. It is the public that believes in it, we remember that we faced Ankara, or few people believed in it. We will have even more support, that’s obvious. And then, we are in the semi-finals of the French championship, this is not a trifle.
Are you proud to see your club at this level this season?
This is what we have always said. That “it could have been done in Narbonne.” In other sports, everything is more difficult, because the investments are much larger, and it is difficult to raise a budget. Like the Top 14 in rugby, we’re not talking about football or even handball, which is a sport with pretty big budgets. We have always said that volleyball can be played with Europe, especially since we won this year. Our goal is to stay at the top of the table every year, to achieve titles for the Narbonne public. This season we have really gone on the mend. This is the year we have learned a lot. Already with the European Cup, with this long season, problems with Seth too.
In the semi-finals you will play with Olympic champion Kevin Tilly.
Of course, we are proud of him, because we are French and it was our little Frenchman who won the gold medal. But in a volleyball match, that doesn’t count, and despite that, he remains a player like everyone else.