“I’m disappointed because we will probably manage without quality players,” lamented French footballer Castello Lukeba
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“I’m disappointed because we will probably manage without quality players,” lamented French footballer Castello Lukeba

The international hope of the French team Castello Lukeba, October 10, 2023 in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines (Yvelines).

It is one of the only certainties “enlarged virtual list” unveiled on 3 June by the coach of the France Espoirs team, Thierry Henry, in preparation for the Olympic football tournament (from 24 July to the final on 9 August). Castello Lukeba, 21, becomes part of the adventure at home.

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Before leaving for Clairefontaine (Yvelines) on June 16 for the Olympic preparation course, the defender, the author of a successful first season in Leipzig (41 matches in all competitions), told World his ambitions and his fear of the uncertainty surrounding the French selection, as opposed to the USA, Guinea and New Zealand in Group A. The final list of 18 players and four reserves selected by Thierry Henry must be sent to the International Federation (FIFA) on 3 .July.

What does it mean to you to play the Olympic Games at home?

Taking part in the Olympics is not for everyone. As soon as you pass the age group [23 ans]it is more complicated, especially this year, with the Euro in Germany [du 14 juin au 14 juillet]. Competing in the Games on home soil is a once in a century…

When I watched European Championship 2016 at home [défaite des Bleus en finale face au Portugal], the enthusiasm was incredible and I hope to experience something similar with my loved ones. The goal is clear: we aim for the Olympic title.

What role do you intend to play in the team?

I’m starting to become one of the captains. I hope to take the experience I gained during the European Championship 2023 with me [élimination en quarts de finale face à l’Ukraine]. I want to be an example to all newcomers. With the under-21s I had the captain’s armband, but I’m not sure that Alexandre [Lacazette, qu’il a côtoyé à l’Olympique lyonnais, est l’un des trois « jokers » de plus de 23 ans choisis par Thierry Henry] leave it to me [rires].

There are quite a few names I know [il s’interrompt un instant]…in this preliminary list. We’ll see how this one develops, but I’m pretty excited to see the final list so I can fully launch into the competition.

What is your relationship with Thierry Henry?

It is primarily a name and a reference in football. We are very lucky to be coached by him. He is a very honest and transparent person. It is important. With us, he is tough, but fair. He is a perfectionist, very particular about the details of our preparations so that we give the best of ourselves at the Games.

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