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Soccer. Thomas Callens (Annecy): “I have never received so many messages! “


Six shots on goal saved in 20 attempts: goalkeeper Thomas Callens, born in Brest and trained at FC Lorient, is the real hero of Annecy’s course (L2) in the Coupe de France. In Marseille (2-2, 7-6 on pens), in an incandescent Vélodrome, he shone again, stopping a penalty from Alexis Sanchez at the end of the match and Nuno Tavares’ shot on goal during the session for, at the end , snatch the first qualification in the history of the Haute-Savoie club in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France.

Did you manage to get to sleep that night?

Hardly! Honestly, it’s also because we got home at 7 am, by bus, so it wasn’t easy, especially with the emotions… I’ve never received so many messages! From family, friends, everyone, it’s a lot of fun!

Do you measure the feat achieved in an incandescent and hostile Vélodrome, Wednesday evening?

We start slowly. The fact of receiving all these messages, relatives, of having returned to earth this afternoon, of having seen the teammates, the staff, we are beginning to measure the scope of this feat. At the training center, there was a lot of joy, smiles, pride. But also a lot of fatigue, so we were careful to recover well because we are playing again on Saturday, in Metz, we must not forget that.

It seems that you stopped all the penalties, the day before the match, in training…

Yes, I was successful! As a result, our players not too much a contrario (laughs). But they did the job on Wednesday night!

One of your teammates said on Wednesday, “if we went to penalties, I knew we would win”. You too, were you in this state of mind?

Inevitably, I was in a state of mind of confidence. It was twice that we went to penalties and we won these sessions. I’m surfing on this confidence on a personal level and all of this put together brings a lot of confidence and doubt to the opponent. The Marseillais are professionals, so they didn’t show it but they thought about it anyway. Then there is this penalty saved during the match (against Alexis Sanchez, at 2-1, 85 ‘) which plays a huge role. All the little words from teammates too, their confidence, it galvanizes me, it pushes me.

Thomas Callens has stopped six shots on goal in 20 attempts on this Coupe de France course. (Photo Nicolas Tucat/AFP)

Have penalty shootouts always been something you enjoy?

Since childhood, yes, from youth tournaments and matches in youth categories. I’ve always taken it in the sense that I have everything to gain. As a goalkeeper, if we concede a goal, it’s rarely our fault, and if we stop, we’re the hero. I always think it’s a godsend.

How did you bounce back after conceding that equalizing goal, seconds from the end of the match?

Besides, I take my hat off to my teammates, we conceded this goal at the end of the match (2-2, Mughe, 90’+6) and we missed our first shot on goal… And 65,000 whistles, that makes a lot of noise! They kept their cool and made some great shots on goal. Of course, to win, I have to stop, but they too have to put in.

Your face exuded serenity and confidence during the penalty shootout. What’s your secret?

It’s funny, I discussed it with my friends, my girlfriend… I simply remained myself, in my everyday way of being, with my character, I know how to keep my calm and my concentration, while laughing with the referee before the session and watching the supporters give me 150 middle fingers. I stay myself, I’m in my bubble.

Annecy's players celebrate after winning the penalty shoutout during the French Cup quarter final football match between Olympique de Marseille and Annecy at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, southe
FC Annecy (Ligue 2) reached the semi-finals of the Coupe de France for the first time in its history. (Photo Nicolas Tucat/AFP)

What do you feel ?

A great personal pride, it is a magnificent course, beautiful emotions. It’s a source of great pride for the club and the region, we are the last representatives of the Pays de Savoie, it’s magnificent and when I see the visitor parking lot, they deserve it.

On this course, you have stopped six shots on goal out of 20 attempts. Valentin Rongier said at the end of the match that it was the lottery, you contradict him at every turn…

I have to disagree (laughs). Of course there is an element of luck, as in everything, but it’s not just that. There is a part of analysis, before the match, of instinct and after a few small balls that each goalkeeper has to give himself the maximum of chances. And that creates success. It’s not a lottery, it’s also a game and a bit of intimidation.

“Everything comes at the right time to who knows how to wait,” wrote my colleague, who has written your portrait in recent days. That’s kind of your motto, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s true that I have always described myself as someone who is patient, in football anyway. I came close to playing twice and it didn’t happen for some reason, but I always told myself that my time was coming. This season, I played my first game as a pro in Ligue 2 and there is this magical course… It may have taken longer than planned, but I’m also happy that it’s going like this. There is no ready-made course, it’s mine and it suits me so much!

This Thursday evening is the draw for the semi-finals. Do you have a preference ?

It would be cool to play at home, our supporters deserve it, for a great party at the Parc des Sports. If we have to travel, personally, go to Beaujoire, that would be nice. It is close to Brittany. I would have a bunch of people who would be present!

You are 90 minutes from the Stade de France… Are you thinking about it?

We are obliged! In the semi-finals, we necessarily think about it but we have to take it game by game and we have the championship, with the objective of maintaining it. But when we arrive at the beginning of April, we will necessarily think of the final.

It’s crazy, right?

Yes, it’s crazy! I wouldn’t have imagined it a few months ago… We still hope to get to the end of the competitions, but frankly, it’s magnificent. It’s hilarious. And it’s real!

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