Antoine Griezmann, the French national team's striker, faces a vital match against a tough opponent — Argentina — in the World Cup’s round of 16 on Saturday. The Atletico Madrid striker has become one of the leading players in the current French squad, but he’s also a local legend in his hometown.
Euronews travelled to Mâcon, in France, or in other words, "Griezmann Territory". The player was born in this city in 1991 and it was here that he also took his first steps as a football player. One of his first clubs was UF Maconnais, for which he signed in 1997.
His first coach was Bruno Chetoux, who’s been coaching for more than 30 years in different categories of the team.
As soon as he saw him on the pitch, he knew Griezmann had something different: "You could see right away on the pitch that he was a great player, with a lot of technique, and above all, he played collectively, something that is rare at that age. He wasn't playing alone, he wasn't selfish. If he saw that his partner in the defence was in trouble, he'd come down and help. I didn't have to tell him.”
A passion for football is nothing new in Griezmann’s family. His grandfather, Amaro Lopes, of Portuguese origin, played for the Portuguese team Paços Ferreira. His father also played for a local team in Mâcon, becoming teammates with his son.
Chetoux remembers how Griezmann, as a child, made football his priority: "He thought only of football. His main concern was the ball. One morning, as he was leaving home from school, his mother asked him if he had forgotten something. He answered ‘No, mom, I have my ball,’ when in fact he had forgotten his backpack with the books".
Griezmann, however, did not have it easy. During his childhood, while playing for UFM, he tried out for several top-level teams, including Olympique Lyonnais, but was rejected, mainly for his short stature.
However, this did not affect his competitiveness, he always wanted to win.
"There was a season when we had a very good team. There was Griezmann, but also other very good players. We had won all that season, but we lost the last tournament in the penalty shoot-out. Antoine didn't even wait for the trophy presentation. He went home, crying. He was disappointed," said Chetoux.
That drive to win will be needed more than ever this Saturday against Argentina, a team that has had a lot of problems in the current World Cup, but has the capacity to eliminate France in the upcoming round.