“We were lacking in discipline,” said the Gabon coach

We were lacking in discipline said the Gabon coach

Appointed coach of the Gabon national team last October, Thierry Mouyouma quickly distinguished himself on the field by winning his first two official matches in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. But he was more talked about by removing Panthers star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from his list for November 2023 and then last March. No matter, for the former captain of Gabon, the success of the national team will depend on discipline and love of the jersey. For RFI, he discusses his managerial style, and returns to “ the Aubameyang affair “.

RFI: Thierry Mouyouma, you met the former African champion, Senegal, on March 22 (0-3 defeat). In June, you will meet the new African champion, Ivory Coast. Was this match against the Lions a bit of a dress rehearsal before this clash against the Elephants?

Thierry Mouyouma: Yes, indeed, it was a rehearsal, but you have to understand that it will not be the same group in June. Against the Senegal and for this March break, our desire was to expand, to develop a file of 35, 40 players available for the national team. When we have one that is unavailable for one reason or another, we know where to draw the player, the profile. It was very important. Now, for the June match, it will be a different or reshuffled group, with a different mindset, because it is the World Cup qualifiers.

Gabon did not play in the last CAN. You arrived in September to rebuild the team and you start with two wins in two matches in the World Cup qualifiers. What can Gabon hope for? Qualification for the World Cup?

Gabon really has ambitions. The primary ambition, as stipulated in my contract, is to qualify the team for the 2025 African Cup of Nations. Afterwards, the subsidiary objective is to qualify Gabon for the World Cup. Which is not impossible when you look at the current format and the number of African countries that can go to the World Cup. Gabon has its chance like all nations.

Ivory Coast may be African champions, but they are not unbeatable. It is up to us to do what is necessary in June to be able to leave Abidjan with a satisfactory result and not allow Côte d’Ivoire to take a considerable gap. Gabon has certainly not been to the CAN, but we remain competitive even if we are in the restructuring phase.

And how does this restructuring take place?

We need to restructure the entity at all levels: mindset level, disciplinary level, mental level, technical level and results level. It is important that Gabon now qualifies for all CANs.

Since your arrival, there is a word that often comes up when we talk about the Gabon national team: “ discipline “. Is this the key word of your “magisterium” so to speak?

Discipline is at all levels. You need tactical discipline to play well. You need discipline for men to live together, you need discipline to establish your ideas, you need discipline to establish the principles of the game. So, I am not inventing the wheel. In Gabon, we have talent and quality, but we have been lacking in discipline. In all aspects. We are not only talking about behavioral discipline, but also about the game, about tactics.

Gabon is a country which, since last August, has experienced a political upheaval and it doesn’t just stop at the political level. It integrates all parts of society, including football and as you know, football is the opium of the people. The people live through the results of the national team. We have a duty to set an example. We represent the people and you can only represent a people through discipline. The Gabonese people are a disciplined people and we who wear the jersey of the national team represent Gabon. When we go outside at the taxpayer’s expense, we must be representative, and everything requires discipline.

Along with the word discipline, it also has the word “ country » which you use a lot. Is this a way of instilling the love or importance of the jersey in your players?

There are no men without a country, there is no country without men. We are Gabonese, we are proud. I had the privilege or the chance to have been captain of the national team. When I returned, I found unpleasantly that the house was a little dilapidated and that it needed to be restructured. And for that, we first need to establish discipline and talk about patriotism. I have little brothers in front of me, some could be my children, so the only thing I can talk to them about or that we have in common is to defend the homeland. This is why we put Gabon at the center of our debates, at the center of our conversations, because for us, Gabon is indivisible, unique and eternal.

You communicate a lot on social networks, particularly on X, formerly Twitter. You have not missed that the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the list of March matches has been widely commented on…

We have more than commented on the absence of Pierre-Emerick. In every interview I’ve had to do since I’ve been here, people talk to me about Pierre-Emerick, we even forget the technical-tactical aspect. I want to reassure everyone: there is no problem from man to man, from person to person. There is not an Aubameyang problem. When we arrived, we summoned the player. He was unable to respond to this summons for reasons that everyone knows.

In March, we started again on the basis of the list of the Lisbon grouping. (Editor’s note : the coach’s first list for a regrouping in Lisbon for the first two days of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers). Which made sense to me. We once again relied on the framework of November and I added certain promising players from the observations of the prospecting tour that I had to do in January. So, people need to understand that these are just choices that meet certain period criteria. Nothing personal, nothing eternal in saying that X or Y or Pierre-Emerick will not come to the national team.

Aubameyang is doing better in his second part of the season than the first with Marseille. So can he hope to return for the June matches counting for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers?

It is a source of pride for us, Gabonese, that a compatriot is one of the best players in France and succeeds in Marseille. A club that I support in particular. For the June games, I think my staff and I have an idea of ​​our roster. Now we’re going to do things the normal way. We will get back in touch with our players, we will discuss. We will draw up the list in our soul and conscience to have the best possible team, and the most representative team possible in June in Ivory Coast.