INTERVIEW – Frédéric Bougeant can look back at two successful years as head coach in Rostov-Don.
This weekend, he has the unique opportunity to crown the achievement, winning the 2018 EHF Champions League after taking the Russian team to their first FINAL4 ever.
Still, he calls it quits after this season and he is leaving without regrets. Aside of coaching Nantes in the French league, he is going to be the national coach in Senegal.
By Peter Bruun
There is no doubt that Frédéric Bougeant has played a significant role in Rostov-Don reaching the Women´s FINAL4 in their third attempt.
When the 43-year-old Frenchmen took over the club, nearly two years ago, he found a team in deep crisis and a squad that had yet to reach the FINAL4.
For one, Bougeant made players believe in themselves again, this and a few successful signings created the team that qualified for this weekend´s FINAL4, in Budapest, in convincing fashion.
Only a 21:24 defeat away against FC Midtjylland during the group phase put a small stain on Rostov´s march towards the Hungarian capital.
“The past two years have been a fantastic and amazing journey.
“I came to the club at a time, when it was in big crisis. Everyone was stressed and disappointed by the lack of success in the Champions League. But when we won the EHF Cup last year, we began to see the light again.
“From that point onwards, we were able to dream about success in the Champions League again and there has been real, big progress over these past two years.
“There are many aspects, why I see Rostov having the potential of becoming the best club team in the world. So, I really think I am leaving a good team to my successor,” says Frédéric Bougeant who joined Rostov from Fleury (France).
His successor has been known or a long time – it will be one of the other FINAL4 coaches – Spanish Ambro Martín who is currently under contract in Györ.
Bougeant does not claim that success came easy to him or Rostov.
“It has been a big challenge in many ways.
“In Russia, you cannot expect to work like you do in France, for example. Everything is different more or less – the culture, the mentality, everything is difficult to adapt to.
“Furthermore, it’s not just about the difference in Russian culture compared to what I am used to.
“In our team, we have women from Brazil, Spain, Montenegro. It means permanent work and adaptation.
“For me it has been a good experience, as I do not want to just stick to my standards as a coach. I need to be challenged and to develop. So, in this respect my time in Rostov was well spend,” he explains
So, why is he leaving?
“Because I find the project in Nantes to be too amazing to turn down.
“The president of Nantes called me a long time ago and offered me a three-year contract, during which time I can develop the club to a level, where it can challenge Brest and Metz at the top of French handball.
“Moreover, I am going to extend my coaching experience by becoming the national coach in Senegal.
“I made my decisions back in October, as it was an opportunity to be part of a very exciting project and I am really looking forward to going back to my country,” says Frédéric Bougeant.
But first he has a job to finish in Rostov-Don. Obviously, winning the 2018 Champions League will be his wildest handball dream. And he sees a realistic chances despite his team being the FINAL4 debutant.
“We are in a very good state-of-mind after wining the Russian league. And in the Champions League, we haven’t lost a match since the beginning of November 2017.
“Now, the question is if we have the capacity to play a tournament like the FINAL4 with all the pressure it brings with it.
“For the club, it is the first FINAL4, but for many of the girls, it is not, and we expect to benefit because of it.
“As I said, we have been working very well together towards the end of the season and we certainly hope to play at our best level in the semi-final against Vardar, on Saturday,” he says.
“For now, we are only thinking about this first match and what we need to do to overcome Vardar.
“If we succeed, we have all of Saturday night to think about a possible final,” says Frédéric Bougeant.