In an exclusive interview, Jean-Francois Vulliez, Director of the OL academy and Clément Michon, International Relations manager, have answered several questions about our latest achievement: The One-Star label we have received from the AFC, after meeting 20 criteria in the AFC Elite youth scheme.
How proud are you of Athletico after the club has been approved as an elite ONE-STAR academy by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)?
Jean-Francois Vulliez: We are so proud of Athletico as it is the first football academy in the Middle East to receive a One-Star label by the AFC. When Stéphane first told us about the project, we felt so proud and honored to have accompanied Athletico team with the help of Stéphane d’Urbano, in their journey to build a professional football structure. Applying to the AFC elite youth scheme was an important step proving that the OL aims to partner with valuable clubs and the accomplishment shed the light on our philosophy and ambition to share our expertise with professional and determinate clubs. This achievement happened to occur at the 10th anniversary of the OL – Athletico partnership.
Clément Michon: We are extremely proud of Athletico. After the academy has grabbed the national title “best grassroots academy” two years ago, this second distinction substantiate the vision and the efforts of the founders. For OL, this achievement is one of the best rewards that clarifies why we engage with the clubs abroad. Athletico’s accomplishment confirms our mission which was always to help local clubs develop and build a professional football structure.
Are you surprised by this achievement reached in 15 years?
Jean-Francois Vulliez: When there is a will, there is a way. I am not surprised because when I first met Robert (Paoli) , René (Matta) , and the whole team behind this project, they had a strong will and determination to go forward. It has always been a humanistic project with a vision to create the best structure for the Lebanese youngsters where they can enjoy Football and dream of playing abroad.
How do you see the club’s future with all the problems going on in Lebanon?
Clément Michon: As we said before, this achievement certifies the quality-based work of Athletico and the vision of the founders; There is a message of HOPE in all of this, and we wish that it continues in the same direction and following the same philosophy.
Jean-Francois Vulliez: Knowing the resilience of the Lebanese people, we think that once the country rehabilitates, the club will continue its progress, and this should be a beneficial period to work on the next goal.
What message would you like to send to the young Lebanese football players after this accomplishment? Do you think that one day another Lebanese player could join the OL team?
Jean-Francois Vulliez: I will say WELCOME TO THE BEST FOOTBALL ACADEMY, at Athletico, you will be able to enjoy, dream and reach your goals. We can hope and dream that maybe one day a player will have the chance to play with OL, and if this happens, we will be very proud and happy.
Clément Michon: I totally agree to Jeff’s message and I’ll say to the young passionate players: even if you’re going through hard times now, DON’T STOP DREAMING.