Oumar frightens / Portrait of Friday / AC Ajaccio / SOFOOT.com

Before receiving Le Havre, this Saturday (7 p.m.), AC Ajaccio remains clinging to its second place thanks to its rearguard, by far the best in Ligue 2 (17 goals conceded in 35 games). The Corsicans have made the defense of their territory an art, and Oumar Gonzalez is its standard bearer. The Cameroonian with an imposing physique is having an XXL season and gets on the nerves of the attackers he meets on his way. Portrait of a lover of rough duels, who has Giorgio Chiellini as a model.

To see records fall at the end of the season, you don’t have to look far: it’s Ligue 2 that you have to watch. We can obviously talk about Toulouse, guaranteed to rise since last Monday, which has already pulverized the highest total of goals scored since the introduction of the single group (80 three days from the end, against 75 for Nîmes four years ago) and whose playing master, Branco van den Boomen, can set a new historic mark in terms of the number of assists (20 for the moment, as many as Zinedine Ferhat in 2017-2018). In a completely different register, AC Ajaccio also has a crazy record in sight. With only 17 goals conceded – and 22 clean sheets! – since the start of the year, the Corsican club has a real chance of doing better than Metz (2006-2007) and Paris FC (2018-2019), which had then conceded 22 pawns. An unfailing defensive solidity, this is the major asset of Olivier Pantaloni’s men, who occupy the very enviable second place in the ranking before receiving Le Havre this Saturday (7 p.m.), for a poster that promises to be electric once again. . And if the Ajaccian rearguard is more difficult to break through than a reinforced concrete wall, it is partly thanks to Oumar Gonzalez.

When he arrives in the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, in July 2021, the 23-year-old defender is accompanied by pretty promises, in particular glimpsed during his two years in Chambly. He was quick to confirm them, quickly becoming an irremovable member of the Corsican hinge and even allowing himself the luxury of scoring three goals during the first five days. But it is another element that gives it the status of public enemy No. 1 of other Ligue 2 formations, namely its ability to trip up opposing attackers. In the space of a few weeks, the Parisian Gaëtan Laura and the Caennais Alexandre Mendy receive a red card after a clash with the Cameroonian, who also makes Sochaux Aldo Kalulu see all the colors. After the match, the Cub also publishes a tweet to complain about the preferential treatment he has just suffered, video editing in support. In January, the ACA even stepped up to the plate and issued a salty press release against the LFP’s disciplinary committee, which suspended its protege after a quarrel with Grenoble’s Manuel Pérez. But, damn it, why is the rock Gonzalez so hellish for his opponents and so important for his club?

“We immediately saw great potential in him. His technique was a bit rough, it’s true, but his athletic qualities were enormous. » Xavier Collin, his trainer at Épinal

Big potential, teddy and transformation

In order to see more clearly, nothing beats a quick step back. Passed by Marseille neighborhood clubs during his youth (US Baille, Air Bel), the native of Douala joined the FC Metz training center in 2013 and was part of the professional workforce in 2015. “I never had him in my groupspecifies however Philippe Hinschberger, appointed coach of the Moselle in December 2015. He was injured all the time and, with the medical staff, we took the decision to bring him back to the training center. » It was at Épinal, where he was loaned the following season, that Oumar really launched his career. Then coach of the Vosges training, which evolves in National, Xavier Collin remembers “of a very young 18-year-old boy, who was immediately unanimous. We immediately saw great potential in him. His technique was a bit rough, it’s true, but his athletic qualities were enormous. » To make the most of this potential, precisely, the one who was until then considered a sentinel moves back a notch and takes place in central defense. A position that Gonzalez then occupies in the various teams welcoming him on loan (Villefranche, Rodez) and of course in Chambly, which he joined in 2019. “It’s easy to play with himadmits Thibault Jaques, his partner in the Chamblysian hinge. He exudes a lot of power, passion. But you also have to know the driver, force him to defend in his zone instead of going anywhere on the field. »

“She’s not a ‘whore’ like Sergio Ramos. Oumar is mean, yes, but because he’s starved to death. » Adrien Pagerie, his teammate in Villefranche-Beaujolais

Oumar Gonzalez is therefore first of all a build that imposes, with his 86 meter all in muscles and his long arms quick to encircle the opposing players. Needless to say it does not go unnoticed on a lawn. Under this tough shell, however, hides a tender heart, if we are to believe those who have known him. “He’s calm, smiling, pleasant… he’s a really good guy” assure Thibault Jaques. “He is very shy. In the locker room, he didn’t talk much.” adds Adrien Pagerie, who knew the robust defender in Villefranche-Beaujolais. “He is adorable, he is a nice boy, respectful of the rules, of the hierarchy and of the coach” abounds Xavier Collin, who also describes him as “a very hard worker. Hungry guys like him, you don’t see many of them in today’s football. » So much for the daily Oumar. But as soon as kick-off time is near and you have to put on your crampons, a « petite transformation » takes place, admits Thibault Jaques. “We will say that he is a quiet little teddy out of competition, but in matches, he is starving to death” summarizes Adrien Pagerie with a smile.

Shoulder strikes that irritate

To image this metamorphosis, the Caladois side has an action that comes to mind: “Oumar was ten meters behind an attacker. He came back at 2000 km/h and he shouldered her. The other he flew two meters away. Oumar recovered the ball and restarted cleanly. » The duel, this is what transcends the Corsican by adoption. “He gives off a lot of power, lance Pagerie. He is very strong in close combat. Even if he passes himself off, he won’t let go. In addition, for a fairly strong central, it goes very fast. » Thibault Jaques, for his part, remembers a match in the match with Bevic Moussiti-Oko last season at… Ajaccio: “Oumar had jumped so high that he was completely over him. » The guilty pleasure of number 25 of the ACA would therefore be to send the opposing attackers flying. To the point of seeing him as a bad player? “Yes, he is a mean defender on the pitchreplies Adrien Pagerie without hesitation. But in a good way! She’s not a “whore” like Sergio Ramos. Oumar is mean, yes, but because he’s starved to death. I think he just likes defending. »

“His duel, he plays it at 300%, so if he has to go up on the attacker, he will go up on the attacker. » Thibault Jaques, his ex-teammate at Chambly

And the aggressiveness of Oumar Gonzalez annoys more than one. This is something Thibault Jaques can testify to without difficulty, who has seen centre-forwards tripping by dint of sticking with this cumbersome bodyguard: “His duel, he plays it at 300%, so if he has to go up on the attacker, he will go up on the attacker. The attacker can then be fed up and decide to enter the duel with Oumar. But for that, you better be ready! » And to add that “if an attacker takes the lead, Oumar will engage in the duel by taking the ball, the player and everything that goes with it”. “When you get to the clinch in front of him, it’s over. That’s why I try to put forward, more mobile, smarter attackers. notes Philippe Hinschberger, who has met him several times in L2 in recent seasons, on the bench of Grenoble or Amiens.

“He symbolizes this Corsican state of mind”

In February 2020, Castelroussin Alexis Gonçalves only lasted 17 minutes against the marking of the former Spinalien. He is then asked by the referee to go take a shower, after two nudges inflicted on his vis-à-vis. “I played it a bit Italian. I see the big defenders doing it, Materazzi, Bonucci, so why wouldn’t I do it” then confessed the Cameroonian defender in the Picard mail. In mid-April, he revealed to France 3 Corse that he had Giorgio Chiellini as his idol. Does this adoration of mischievous Italians make him a vicious player, who provokes the opponent before writhing in pain at the slightest touch? “He’s tough in contacts, like a defender who likes to win his duels. But I don’t remember a game where he spoke badly, where he was aggressive in the wrong way.” , admits number 9 Pau Romain Armand, who has faced him several times during his career. Xavier Collin will not say the opposite: “Oumar is very strong, because he manages to stay in his bubble when he plays duels. On that side, he learned a lot, because he was provoked at Épinal, with whom he often met experienced attackers. » This season, Gonzalez has certainly collected a whopping nine yellow cards, which illustrates his aggressiveness well. However, he has still not been expelled, proof of his ability to keep his cool.

“It’s the ideal profile for Ajaccio! In Corsica, there is the culture of defending well, of transcending oneself for one’s team. » Romain Armand, used to meeting him on Ligue 2 lawns

Corsica, its fine sandy beaches, its Figatelli and its appetite for combativeness. Romain Armand knows all this. He spent two seasons in Ajaccio, at Gazélec (2017-2019). For him, no doubt, the great Oumar and the islanders found each other well: “It’s the ideal profile for Ajaccio! In Corsica, there is the culture of defending well, of transcending oneself for one’s team. If the solidity of the Ajacciens is their strength, it is above all the Corsican state of mind which requires you not to let go and to fight until the last second. He symbolizes this state of mind, and it suits him very well. » The François-Coty stadium, Xavier Collin played there for six years. He too had no doubts about the Cameroonian’s compatibility with the aceist project. “To be honest, I had him on the phone before he signed his contract.he reveals. I had already been there, and I encouraged him to join Ajaccio. I really thought that was the profile that matched the mentality of the club, of this team. » With Oumar Gonzalez, the Corsicans can be reassured: the defense of the Island of Beauty is assured.

By Loïc Bessière and Raphaël Brosse
All comments collected by LB and RB, except those of Oumar Gonzalez.

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