Before France - South Africa: Jonathan Clauss, a week of discovery, an evening to (already) change everything

Jonathan Clauss, the good conscience of a Racing Club de Lens returned to Ligue 1 through the back door

I didn’t want him to play with the handbrake. He answered well” Bingo! The compliment from Didier Deschamps addressed to Jonathan Clauss after France-South Africa last Tuesday (5-0) validated with mention the debut in blue of the Lensois side. Holder during almost all of his second selection , he came out in the 88th to the ovations of the Lille public who had nevertheless booed him, the Lensois, at the start of the meeting.

Very active and strong mentally: everything needed to seduce Deschamps who first appreciates men of character… This France-South Africa was the culmination of a beautiful “Claus sequence” started on March 17 last during the announcement by DD of the selected ones for the matches against the Ivory Coast and South Africa and completed this Sunday when Jonathan faced Strasbourg. The Alsatian club had not kept him at the end of training, at 18 years old.

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Clauss, “with class”

Despite the 1-0 defeat and a very average match, it was still crowned with two tricolor capes that he returned to Meinau 12 years later. During his moving arrival at Clairefontaine, it was whispered in his entourage that for the traditional hazing song, he would sing “Because we come from far away”, by Corneille. Jonathan sang Corneille well, but it was the title “With class” that he sang in front of his new teammates. Regardless, the impression remains: Jonathan Clauss in the France team is the personal but also collective redemption of a man and a club, RC Lens, who have come from afar…

Jonathan is football “from below” rewarded by Didier Deschamps, wrongly considered conservative, withdrawn into the notion of a closed group. DD knows how to open doors, regardless of age (Jonathan is 29) and golden statuses, even ignoring past grudges. Coming from the amateur, professional world at 24, the adopted Lensois embodies a sporting meritocracy where the social ladder still works. And that’s partly why France, that of football and beyond, very republican, was seized with emotion for this real little guy, as it had been 16 years earlier for “ch ‘ti Franck” (Ribéry), also called in blue.

Jonathan Clauss is the antidote to the bling-bling PSG still dented this year from the 8th of C1! It’s the anti-Neymar. Jonathan and Ney are almost the same age, 29 and 30. Hence the tremendous emotional shock wave, from the announcement of his selection to the ovation of the public at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium. But in a more local and more collective way, Jonathan’s selection for the France team also tells of the symbolic, and late, formalization of RC Lens in Ligue 1… The artesian club had risen to L1 in 2020 thanks to the stoppage of the L1 and L2 championships (frozen on the 28th day) due to the Covid crisis.

Second in L2 in March 2020, Lens was only a small point ahead of Ajaccio and two over Troyes, and on May 14, 2020, AC Ajaccio had even seized the CNOSF claiming to join a Ligue 1 at 22 clubs. It was therefore with a certain bad conscience of an “usurped” rise that the Sang et Or had reintegrated into the elite.

A nice revenge for Lens

This is undoubtedly why, unconsciously, the whole Lensois group had celebrated with indescribable joy Jonathan’s selection in Blue as the real accession to L1: Lens was finally rehabilitated, legitimized in the elite! Of course, the pretty 2020 season, which ended in an honorable 7th place, 2021 had given credibility to the club’s presence in L1. But perhaps more was needed to be definitively accepted, “forgiven”…

And this “plus”, it was therefore the selection of Clauss celebrated, tricolor in hand, at the end of Lens-Clermont (3-1) in communion with the public in fusion of Bollaert there also as a title, or rather like the accession to Ligue 1 that it was in reality. In the spring of 2020, due to confinement, the people of Bollaert could not celebrate the “administrative” recovery of Lens. It was done symbolically on March 19, after the great victory against Clermont, two years after Lens-Orléans (1-0) which had propelled the Artésiens to second place in L2, before the end of the championship…

It is perhaps also partly this “bad conscience” of a truncated accession which pushed Franck Haise to practice this generous, offensive, daring football that his guys provide before our eyes. Prove at all costs by a spectacular game that the promotion in L1 was not usurped. What’s more, Franck had been appointed coach in February 2020 to replace Philippe Montanier, two games before the end of the championship. He too probably suffered from the syndrome of illegitimacy which forces those who experience it to have to prove twice as much…

The interview he gave to SoFoot in the summer of 2021, resonated well, at times, like a plea, a justification for its presence and that of Lens in Ligue 1! He was only convinced of his “right” a few minutes before the first match of the 2020-2021 season in Nice: “For ten seconds, I hit: it happens, I am indeed Ligue 1 coach, in Lens”. And, as if to justify himself again, using the collective “we”.

Our work has been recognized by Niko Kovac, Christophe Galtier, Mauricio Pochettino and André Villas-Boas (…) My intention has always been to enter this Ligue 1 through play, without suffering, with my head up (sic)” He will even confess partial regret for not having led Lens in the European Cup! Prove constantly, again and again… Better than the European Cup, the selection of Clauss has also indirectly legitimized his function as a coach. We understand better why Franck held Jonathan very tightly in his arms for a long time after the explosion of joy that followed Deschamps’ announcement.

Haise, Fofana, Clauss and the others…

We also partly find this fierce desire to transcend this complex of illegitimacy in the wonderful Seko Fofana (or even in Florian Sotoca, the Narbonnais). His enormous volume of play, as well as his great humility and his love for the club, also led to the re-legitimization of RC Lens in L1. Fofana literally strips to make the club shine, leading the pack behind him! Very involved in his profession, up to the priesthood, to the point of having chosen to devote himself only to his club this season, the Ivorian international skipped the last CAN!

Clauss and Sotoca (from the late harvest) as well as Fofana and Haise have indeed sweat “blood and water” in order to symbolically and definitively reintegrate RC Lens into the elite! First Lensois called in blue since Alou Diarra in 2006 (also 10 years after Raphaël Varane, trained at the club) Lens has symbolically also become one of the “strong places” of French football that it had been in the recent past when he sent some of his guys in the France team.

The Clauss rocket had taken off in the Coupe de France: his exceptional goal with Avranches in 2017

Finally, Jonathan Clauss is also one of these “Cup heroes”. The Coupe de France, a competition adored by France in football, especially that from below, remains this school of “second chance” for some who have failed in training centers. Like Ribéry in 2004 with Brest (National), or especially like Abidal, Pallois or Capelle who went from the amateur world to the pros, Jonathan also managed to imitate them brilliantly in the Coupe de France. In 2016 with Raon L’Etape (CFA2), author of a beautiful goal against Saint-Étienne, then in 2017 with the US Avranches (National) and a splendid achievement against Laval! Because he comes from afar, we will never forget DD’s three magic words that drowned him in happiness among his fiery friends: “Defenders…Jonathan Clauss“.

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