Rolando: «We still need our 12th man»

25 apr 2018
Photos © 
Roland Grunchec / Helios Image / OM
Rolando looks forward to the first leg of the Europa League semi-final against Salzburg. Injured during the quarter-finals, the defender tells us how he lived both games against Leipzig and discusses the ins and outs of the meeting on Thursday night.

Rolando, your coach Rudi Garcia said that in order to better prepare the UEFA Europa League matches, it was necessary to create successes in the league. It’s fair to say this was the case this weekend with this big victory over Lille ...

It was a complicated match because Lille is in a delicate situation. LOSC had to win. We also had to take the points because Olympique Lyonnais had won the day before. All end-of-season games are similar. Some teams play for qualifying places for Europe. Others are trying to maintain their place in the first division. It's fantastic to experience. This gives rise to quite crazy matches. These end-of-season fixtures are played a lot with the head and the heart. You have to give everything you have to achieve the goals. Mental fatigue is a real factor. That's why it's so important to get victories.”

As a team, it is the whole group that produces this season and its good results ...

Yes, Rudi Garcia and Dimitri Payet have mentioned it at various press conferences. They are absolutely right. We have demonstrated it throughout the season. We had injuries and suspensions. The team was often overhauled. But still we are still in the race to win the UEFA Europa League and to snatch second place in the league. Everyone has played their part when asked.

« We must aim even higher! »

From a personal point of view, how do you see this 2017-2018 season?

The beginning of the season was not easy for me. I worked hard and in the end, it paid off. The coach has confidence in me. He’s allowed me to play a lot of games. I then had minor injuries. The last one came at a bad moment (laughs). But I'm happy with my return. In front of Lille, I was fine. I must continue. Our initial goal was achieved as we wanted to do better than last year. Now, we have to aim even higher. We still have four games to play. We are tied with Lyon, and Monaco is only one point ahead. It remains very tight. We must not let go and play everything perfectly!

Do you feel ambitious and confident ...

I am. First because the group is going very well this season. The atmosphere is excellent. We are very close. We have already had great moments. This year proves that I made the right choice by joining OM. This has been a good choice and a big step in my career.

You won the UEFA Europa League in 2011 with Porto. The final was held in Dublin against Braga. You played alongside Moutinho, Falcao, James Rodriguez, etc. Porto won 1-0. What memories do you have from this meeting?

I still get chills. This match is very special. I'm coming to the end of my career, and that final will be sure to be one of the most unforgettable memories I've ever had. I remember everything: the moment we got back to the locker room, our warm-up and so on. Everything is still in my head.

That match was not easy for FC Porto ...

It was a final! A final is never easy to win. There is not one opponent stronger than the other. Everything is reset. There are just 90 minutes to play and then a trophy to raise. That's what we did in 2011. At the final whistle, I did not know what to do. I was just happy. It was only a few days later that I realized what we had achieved. When you win a championship it's very powerful. But a final remains a final. It's unique and unforgettable.

« You just ignored my father yesterday at the stadium!»

Adil Rami says, the Europa League is neglected in France: is this also your feeling?

For me, it's the same everywhere. When playing in big leagues, the big clubs want to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. In the UEFA Europa League, the first part of the season is a little less followed. But after the round of 16, it becomes much more attractive and we can see how far the craze can go.

« A steward came to see me at half-time and said,"Sir, try to sit down!"» 

You probably credit the fervor in Marseille for the Club’s success against Lepizig ...

What a moment! This is probably the game where I suffered the most in my career. I was in the stands ... I experienced something crazy. As soon as the match started, I was in another world. I get on very well with Lucas Ocampos' father, whom I call "Papa". He was at the stadium, a few seats away from me. I did not even see him. He tried to call me during the game. He made signs, took pictures etc. I did not see anything. I heard nothing. The next day, Lucas said to me, "You just ignored my father yesterday at the stadium!" I was completely in my bubble. Apparently, I was unbearable (laughs). A steward came to see me at half-time to tell me, "Sir, try to sit for the spectators behind you!" I apologized because I could not stay put, at the slightest action I jumped up (laughs). I apologized but the fans behind me were in the same state, so it was cool. But the atmosphere was exceptional that night. I can not wait to see what that will be like when I’m on the pitch.

« Bouba, is my mini-me! »

What did you think of the Luiz Gustavo / Kamara’s partnership in central defense?

It worked very well. Hiroki (Sakai) also had an important role. For Luiz (Gustavo), it did not really surprise me. He is talented and has experience. But I was really happy and proud of Bouba (Kamara). Since I arrived at OM, Bouba has trained with me. He was 15, I think, and to see him in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League, it's huge for me ( very moving). I was excited each time he touched a ball. I was very proud to see him play. He is a little boy who grew up with us. It's "my mini-me”. He has great potential. He’s a great defender, he has the ability to play in defensive midfield, on the left, right, etc. I'm just sad that he hurt himself at the end of the game.

Thursday night, you will compete against a Salzburg team that you already faced in the group stage. What can you tell us about your opponent?

It is a formidable opponent. It plays the same style as Leipzig. It is a team of young players who are ready to fight for more than 90 minutes. They have been dominating their championship for two years. There is a lot of quality. Their group is complete and complement each other. To see them in the semi-finals is not a surprise. They finished first in our group and we never managed to beat them! We couldn’t win either the game there (1-0 defeat in Austria) or here (0-0).

They also eliminated very big teams in the round of 16 and then in the quarters ...

Yes, they beat Borussia Dortmund in Germany (1-2) before eliminating Lazio Rome. And yet in the quarter-finals, Lazio had won 4-2. The Salzburg players did not get discouraged and won 4-1 on the return leg. This proves their mental strength and their training. We will therefore need to be extra vigilant. To see them in the semi-finals is anything but a coincidence.

The goal of this first leg is not to concede a goal ....

No, I do not see things that way. The goal is to win. If, then, we do not allow a goal, it's a bonus. But the main thing is to win. If we win, we're halfway there. In this kind of match, every goal and every detail counts. The public will also have a role to play. We will need our twelfth man.

"Just want to say thank you to our supporters!"

In this regard, after breaking the attendance record for a European match in the quarter-finals against Lepizig, the meter should again explode against Salzburg. What message do you want to address to the public?

Thank you, I just want to say thank you to our supporters. What they did against Leipzig was crazy. I hope it will be even stronger!