PREVIEW: France’s Elite 2015 – Argonautes d’Aix-en-Provence

Saturday, February 7th Elite American football is back in France.

This is part of a series of previews to learn more about the top teams of the FFFA, Fédération Française de Football Américain, and better understand the challenges of this new season. This preview comes courtesy of VoxStadium and Marion Santiago and has been translated by AFI.

While the NFL season just ended with the Patriots winning the Super Bowl , football is underway on the other side of the Atlantic . This weekend in France, the Argonautes of Aix-en-Provence are back among the Elite after two seasons in the second division.

Argonautes d’Aix-en-Provence

France - Argonautes poster

2015 Begins Now!

Twelve years after winning their last French  championship, the team is back in the top division to compete for an Elite title. The club Aix, played 2014 in the second division for the second consecutive year, and enjoyed an undefeated, 13 win season vaulting them back up to the French Elite league.

This was no small feat given the situation in which the club found itself for the past several years. Thierry Jamet, President of the Argonautes, also confided that the gap was huge when he took over the reins of the team:

“Last year, I came to a club in crisis, almost on the point of closing down, we did not know who was doing what, and we were in very bad shape financially.”

The relationship between Thierry Jamet and the Argonautes is a story of devotion that has lasted for twenty years. First player and then coach, the former running back has now become president of his beloved club, with the aim of restoring some order to the house of Aix.

“As a former player, I felt there was something we could do if we created a solid foundation in coaching and in the administration so the ‘machine could be restarted’. “

And sometimes kick-started twice a day. After a perfect regular season and the D2 title in hand, the Aronautes fashioned a 37-22 victory against the Kangaroos de Pessac, punching their ticket to the Elite league in 2015.

“We seek nothing but the title”

Thierry Jamet, when asked if the Argonauts goal as the new team in the league is to reach the playoffs:

“It may sound pretentious, but when I start a competition I start to win. We have only one goal, to win the title . For this,  we have to dispose of the three big favorites for the championship: the Black Panthers of Thonon-les-Bains, the Flash La Courneuve and Molossians Asnieres-sur-Seine.

All I know is that it will be extremely difficult because, first we have just arrived from D2, and second there are some major teams in the top division. This does not mean that we would not be disappointed not to reach at least the semi-finals.”

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Kenneth Suhl, the return of an icon

To achieve these ambitious goals, the Argonauts have pulled out all the stops in the off season, managing to attract major reinforcements. Because even if the team showed its superiority in D2, the quality difference that exists between that and the French Elite requires finding  more and better players and maybe even dipping into the former glory days of the club.

France - Argos - Kenneth SuhlWitness the return of Kenneth Suhl, former star quarterback of the Argonauts. With his eight seasons at the club between 1995 and 2005, Suhl returns as head coach to try to infuse his thirst for victory. Thierry Jamet, the arrival of Kenneth Suhl reflects the sporting ambitions of the club:

“We did bring him back to the Argos because he is an iconic figure here, and above all, he is a coach who has been very successful in Denmark.”

Indeed, the curriculum vitae of the American coach is impressive with 80 wins and only nine defeats and five league titles in Denmark, Kenneth Suhl truly transformed the Triangle Razorbacks. Now we’ll see if he will be able to instill that same winning culture in the locker room of Aix-en-Provence.

Armed to the teeth

Speaking of locker room, the off season was also produced more and valuable additions to the team starting with the arrival of Geoffrey John Lewis (Denmark) at running back. Aged 25, the Danish national was named MVP of the 2013 season with the Triangle Razorbacks. Thierry Jamet is happy with his new recruit:

“Geoffrey Lewis is going to be an essential part of our team, but we will also build on a lot of young French players, some of whom are already playing for Team France.”

Indeed, it is clear that the return to the forefront of the Argonautes arouses the interest of new French talent. Witness the arrival of international players like Robin Sebeille, versatile offensive lineman Kevin Kaya, a young receiver from Canada, or Mehdi Bekheira, who will strengthen the defensive line of the Argonautes.

France - Argos - Jimmie Russell

Jimmie Russell

Finally, and as is common in the offseason, French clubs are wont to pick up players from the United States. But like Kenneth Suhl, the Argos will rely on American imports who have already had a taste of French football. In that vein, Thierry Jamet has decided to re-sign his quarterback Jimmie Russell, who led the Argos to such a great season in 2014. . The other American is Jesse Kirstatter who played with the Spartiates d’Amiens. This graduate of Western State College in Colorado (NCAA D2) showed his versatility by playing linebacker, receiver and even offensive line when needed.

So this is a season that promises to be particularly exciting for the Argos who have one desire, to finish at the top of the standings.

But will they live up to the event? The first step takes place this Sunday in the first game of the season when the Argonautes travel to Nice to face the Dauphins.

Profile of the Argos on Europlayers.com: http://www.europlayers.com/ViewProfileTeam.aspx?ProfileId=9903

Marion Santiago
Journaliste sur @PokerStars Sports Club / Rédactrice Foot US, NBA, Football @VoxStadium
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