This summer, it was not just the France team that was competing in an international competition. Two other entities affiliated with the FFF, Guadeloupe and Martinique, indeed proudly represented the tricolor colors in the United States during the Gold Cup. To discover this tournament bringing together selections from Central America, North and the Caribbean, Gwada Boy Yohann Thuram-Ulien and Matinino Kévin Fortuné tell their story.
Yohann Thuram-Ulien: The atmosphere is truly extraordinary. Too bad the Gold Cup is not publicized enough, because viewers would discover a competition that has nothing to envy to the Euro for example. The stadiums are full and in the streets, you can meet a lot of supporters from other nations.
Kevin Fortune: This enthusiasm is very much linked to the strong diaspora that there is on American territory. They are really behind their teams, but they are also interested in other nations. When we walked around with our Martinique badges, they stopped us to tell us that they were going to see us at the stadium. We even sold out against the United States, when they could very well tell themselves that it was only Martinique in front.
“Almost all of Martinique followed the Gold Cup. »
And there was the same enthusiasm, in Martinique or in Guadeloupe?
Yohann Thuram-Ulien: No doubt about it. Already, after our qualification against Guatemala, we received many messages of thanks. This has given a little smile and balm to the hearts of all Guadeloupeans and Guadeloupeans who really needed it, after the year that has just passed.
Kevin Fortune: Almost all of Martinique followed the Gold Cup, thanks to the Martinique La Première channel. We even had the chance to meet a dozen Martinican supporters, because they lived there (the American authorities did not allow the French to come, editor’s note).
How important is this tournament for these two islands?
Yohann Thuram-Ulien: Ten years after our last participation, we had to show that we weren’t stealing anyone’s place. That Guadeloupe is not just the beach and the coconut trees. From this point of view, I think that we have nothing to be ashamed of our performances. In any case, at the end of each match, our opponents came to see us to congratulate us. They never imagined for a moment that there was so much quality and character in our small selection. I hope that our performances have been scrutinized by the clubs of L1 or L2, and that they will let more Guadeloupe players participate in this competition as well as in the rallies.
Kevin Fortune: As we regularly play the Gold Cup, we are a highly respected team and opposing teams watch our games to analyze our weaknesses. So the most important thing is for the local players. If we, the pros (there were four professional players: Kévin Fortuné, Patrick Burner, Emmanuel Rivière and Jean-Sylvain Babin, editor’s note), we put our amateur teammates in the best conditions, they can get tries in MLS. That’s what happened to Kevin Parsemain and Jordy Delem with the Seattle Sounders, for example.
“Like Yohann, I felt a lot of pride. »
Now talk a bit about yourself, what was it like to take part in this international competition?
Yohann Thuram-Ulien: It is always a source of pride to play with the Gwada Boys, since it is thanks to the young selections of Guadeloupe that I was able to be spotted at AS Monaco. Afterwards, doing this tournament is something grandiose. You touch the high level very closely, all the same. People don’t imagine it, but the Gold Cup is a very big competition.
Kevin Fortune: Like Yohann, I felt enormously proud. I consider my small island as my country and even though it’s my second Gold Cup, I’m still very excited to play this tournament with them.
In the absence of the cup, what souvenir will you take home?
Yohann Thuram-Ulien: I had a lot of fun playing in the group stage, but my biggest memory will remain the qualifying match against Guatemala. At the emotional level, it is the paroxysm. With a penalty shootout where I had to shoot in sudden death, the Guatemalan goalkeeper having scored and the elimination coming if I missed. Luckily I put it!
Kevin Fortune: First of all, playing again in full stadiums because we missed it. Then, I was able to play this competition with my cousin Daniel Hérelle for whom it was the last. Finally, my goal against Haiti since it was the 1000and achievement of a Gold Cup. Besides, lots of American media came to see me to interview me and I had absolutely no idea why because we had just lost.
“Obviously, we all want to relive those moments. »
Of course, do you want to participate in the next one, which will be held in two years?
Yohann Thuram-Ulien: Obviously, we all want to relive those moments. Afterwards, I will be 35 years old and I wonder what physical condition I will be in. But now that we have made our comeback, we want to continue and I trust our coach Jocelyn Angloma. Without denigrating the former coaches, he brought rigor and professionalism from his international experience. We will have to give him the tools so that he can continue to work as it should.
Kevin Fortune: It would be a big kiff, already to show a better face of Martinique. It has been two editions in a row that we have fallen into the group of death. In addition, this tournament is more and more interesting and the big nations are no longer there for fun. For example, you see that the USA is already at work to achieve a good performance in 2026.
Interview by Aurélien Bayard