Visiting Robert Popov in Auxerre

Robert PopovRobert Popov made one of the biggest transfers for a Macedonian player in the past January and this in a country where he is the first Macedonian international to play. His transfer turned  the attention of many Macedonian football fans, especially mine as a Macedonian living in France.

So without any doubting I made a contact with the Auxerres’ fans and they have arranged me to meet Robert for a Sunday afternoon during a football game from the lower leagues. Shortly after the arrival in Auxerre, the long trip and the bad travel facilities were forgotten. On the pitch, Auxerre’s second team was playing against Sochaux’s second team. Some of the most important football personalities from Auxerre were there, including the legendary Auxerre’s coach Guy Roux. Beside the man who spent 40 years in Auxerre, there was the young Macedonian player Robert Popov with his four months experience in the club. He was there turning around the pitch looking for a Macedonian compatriot came all long from Lyon to see him. Finally two minutes later we met us. The first thing that I was interested in was to know how he was feeling in France and Auxerre where he and his family are the only Macedonians:

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“I feel great here, it’s true that is not easy when you don’t have any compatriots to spend the time together, but my family is here and that’s the most important. There is one thing that I miss a lot and that’s the night life in Macedonia. However the real difficulty that I have is the French language which is very complicated. Currently I’m taking French classes and I understand very well, so it won’t be a problem for me to speak well enough soon.”

Guy Roux and Dimitar Delov in front of the Stade Abbé Déchamps                 This response imposed the question on Robert’s future in the club where he seemed to be very happy:

“Of course I’ll stay here, I only spent 4 months and that is very short time. I didn’t play a lot this year and I wasn’t surprised because I didn’t make any training with Litex’s first team during the winter’s break, so I wasn’t fit for a difficult championship like the French one is. But after the negotiations between my manager and Auxerre’s stuff, it was confirmed that AJ Auxerre count on me seriously for the next season. Now it stays on me to prepare the start of the next season on the best possible way.”

                The first half of the match has finished when Robert’s translator joined us. His name is Denis Petrić, a Serbian international playing in Auxerre. We all decided to go in a bar were we‘ll be able to discuss for the last hour that I was about to spent in Auxerre. On the way for the city center we stepped by at Robert’s house to take his 4×4, and went strike to the bar. There Robert tried to compare briefly the Macedonian, Bulgarian and French leagues:

The French league is far better than the Macedonian and Bulgarian ones. There is a big difference between the Bulgarian and the Macedonian league, but both of them can’t be compared with the French one. Here in France the football is very physique and you have to be prepared well physically.”

Despite the difference between the Macedonian and French league it was interesting to hear his opinion about the chances of the Macedonian National team in the qualifications for WC2010 against Holland, Norway and Scotland, the team that has defeated France twice in the qualifications for the Euro2008:

“We have a very difficult group but I think that we can make a good result, mostly because the fact that we play better against the bigger football nations and in our group even Iceland can’t be considered as smaller team than our.”

Robert Popov and Dimitar Delov in front of the Stade Abbé DeschampsSpeaking about the National team I couldn’t retain myself from asking what he was thinking about his status and none playing in the National team:
    “I love to play for the Macedonia’s National team and I’ll be there when I’ll get called. The truth is that I don’t know realy why I don’t play for our National team. I can see only one reason which is the missing of the preparation with Litex this winter that put me on the bench at AJ Auxerre. That’s why I have to concentrate myself on the preparation for the next season with Auxerre, hoping that Katanec will call me soon.”
                   The time was very short; we could only take one drink before Robert takes me on the Train Station. Few minutes before we left the bar we’ve spoken about our favorites European’s clubs. Robert told me that his favorite club is Arsenal, so when I asked him in which club he’s seeing himself playing two years later, the answer was simple:

“Arsenal”!

                Then we head for the train station where I thanked Robert for receiving me and for sharing with us his short experience in France. I also wished him to see him soon in our National team, why not for our next friendly game against Ukraine, but first of all a great next season with AJ Auxerre. His teams’ objectives for the past season were secure their place in the French Ligue 1, which now is done. Bur mostly we are used to see Auxerre between the first ten teams in France, and that why we can expect a much better season the next year from Robert and AJ Auxerre, why not reaching a place that takes in the European Cups, so we could celebrate together.

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