As the Concacaf Nations League matches approach, the Saint Martin senior football team has been largely renewed, under the leadership of new team coach Stéphane Auvray.

The complicated matches of the 2018-2019 Nations League illustrated the difficulties of Saint Martin's senior team. So when he was offered the Head Coach position, footballer Stéphane Auvray did not hesitate a second: "I grew up in Saint-Martin, I know the environment and I wanted to help."

Stéphane Auvray went through Stade Malherbe de Caen academy system, and the former professional footballer has played in Ligue 2 and MLS (Major League Soccer) in the United States before becoming captain of the Guadeloupe team. For the last match played by the Saint Martin team in March 2019, the coach chose to "play a maximum of local players to evaluate them. In the process, we set up a system of three training sessions per week under the direction of the assistant coach."

While living in the United States, Stéphane Auvray then travelled on the island to train the players one week per month. At the end of May - beginning of June, the coach assessed the team: "I explained to the president that with up to three training sessions per week, after 5-6 months we would have necessarily seen a progression. Unfortunately when it came to mindset, attendance, investment, motivation or ambition, it was very obvious, that the local players had none of that." Faced with this, Stéphane Auvray initiates the big changes: "I explained to him that if we wanted to play against nations that are part of FIFA, we would have to do like everyone else, that is to say, to get players who play in Europe, the United States or elsewhere (...)

We started with the local players only initially but we realized that they needed a boost. The coach received permission to pick "10 players, who play outside the territory for official games." He finds these players through his network of former professional players. He sets up targeted recruitment of players from the Caribbean," as is currently the case in the team of St. Martin where players originally come from Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti or Guyana."

A Choice for Local Players

If the Saint-Martin's team has been totally revised, Stéphane Auvray does not forget the current team for which he made this decision: "the approach is to have 10 players coming from outside and to add the most deserving local players." 8 of them should, therefore, be chosen. "They train four times a week, they do sessions without the ball, fitness sessions, in order to be competitive." With this complete overhaul, the goal of the coach is to "build a team in line with the expectations of international football," and especially to give opportunities to local players: "if they are in an environment where the team plays well, where they are seen and recognized, local players who are between 18 and 23 years will have opportunities. For Saint Martin, the Nations League starts on September 5 against Barbados, "the strongest opponent." During this first selection phase, the Saint-Martin team will also compete in the Cayman Islands and the Virgin Islands, against which Stéphane Auvray has more hope. "Even if we do not win a lot of games, at least people will be able to place Saint-Martin on the football map."

- Agathe Mathieu

Original article in French