Nissan Trophy Tour 2020

Christian Karembeu: Nothing could stop us

In this series of interviews, five champions talk fans, glory and getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize

INTERVIEW Michael Harrold

Imagine hearing a knock at your door and answering it to find the Champions League trophy on your doorstep. Then heading back inside with it to learn that one of your heroes is online waiting to watch a rerun of your team winning that very same silverware. That’s what happened to one lucky Real Madrid supporter in December, with Christian Karembeu the star ready to press play on the club’s 1-0 victory against Juventus in the 1998 final in Amsterdam. Here, in the fourth of a series of interviews with five former champions on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, Karembeu discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him. 

First of all, how did it go with the fan?

It was really good fun. And best of all, they had the Champions League trophy in their living room! Sure, it was a match from the past, but the atmosphere and setting were exceptional. It was a nice surprise – for all of us. It was a great first to use this new technology to get close to the fans and have this nice experience together, to watch and discuss a match [the 1998 final], and to share a moment between fan and player.

Christian Karembeu gives chase after Pedrag Mijatović’s goal in the 1998 final

What was it like to rewatch the 1998 final?

It was invigorating. My first final. My first Champions League win. Nothing but happiness. Those are memories that will never die. It also made me think about the difficult reality of today, seeing all those people in Amsterdam whereas now the pandemic limits the opportunity to have fans present. Luckily, by sharing the experience with fans, we can tell them what’s happening even when there are no spectators at games – just as we can when there are spectators. They’re different atmospheres, but we have to accept it.


What does the trophy represent for you?

What was extraordinary– thinking of that Real Madrid-Juve final, for example – was that I went off to kiss the cup. I don’t know what I was thinking. I kissed the cup because it was an invitation: I had to kiss the trophy so it would belong to me, come to me. You can’t do that any more with the pandemic! You can’t kiss the cup any more.

What did that 1998 triumph mean to those fans?

After 32 years without [winning the trophy], of course it was a revolution in Madrid. There were thousands of people at the Plaza de Cibeles, it was the same at the airport, and at the stadium in Amsterdam they came in their numbers. I don’t know if there were Juve fans, but there were plenty of ours, with their flags and Real Madrid shirts. And, above all, we finally won La Séptima in colour – 32 years after Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kopa, Sanchis – and with a great team too, before the Galácticos. We managed to make the club and the whole spirit of Real Madrid proud. It’s eternal. We laid the path for a whole new generation and we continue to pass that on. It’s the club that has won the most Champions Leagues and they’ll continue with Zizou and continue after that.

In 1998, it was the first time those Madrid fans had seen that modern trophy. All Madrid’s previous six wins had been with the original trophy, which the club was allowed to keep after the 1966 triumph…

It was the first time, that trophy with the big ears. If only you could cut off an ear and keep it at home… It’s true that the cup with the big ears is a dream for many, many players. And imagine the fans being there and wanting to touch it, because for them it was normal not just to touch the players but also to touch the cup. It excited them and they’d waited for it for years. They were intense during the game and influenced us to win the trophy.

Christian Karembeu celebrates with the trophy in Amsterdam


Of course, that win didn’t just resonate in Madrid but across the world. How was the reaction in New Caledonia, where you were born?

Thanks to the France team and also Real Madrid, I was able to put New Caledonia on the map. Thanks to football, thanks to those victories, people now know where New Caledonia is. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but I know that the power of football and the Champions league is global. It’s known around the world, so your victory is global as well. Whenever I win, it’s a national holiday in New Caledonia!

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Karembeu’s Champions League Best of the Best

Moment

The most exceptional moment was when I chased Mijatović after he scored the goal [in the 1998 Champions League final]. I think I ran 50m just behind him to celebrate with him and our team-mates. It was such a powerful moment because it was a release for us, given how strong and dangerous Juve were. But we managed to score and we could now defend that goal and make the most of it. And win, above all.

Goal

I have to say Predrag Mijatović, because it wasn’t easy from that tight angle. To control like that on the turn and score with the other foot – that was Predrag Mijatović. I don’t know if I or someone else could have done it, but he did. And in such a small space, a tight angle, with two defenders on him, and to score the winning goal! It was just exceptional. You don’t become blind to everything else because you need to continue the match. But that moment of effervescence, of release, of screaming and joy – it’s transcendent, because it’s not just a question of celebrating but also defending that lead afterwards. But we had to let out the stress by celebrating that goal with Pedja. And, above all, we had to do it together, united. He takes off towards the bench and we follow him. There were almost 20 of us on Pedja. We demonstrated a solidarity and unity which showed that nothing could stop us at that moment. It wasn’t just about shutting out everything else; we were saying here we are, we’ll stand together and we will win.

Player

It’s too difficult, whether it’s Raúl, Morientes, Šuker, Mijatović, Redondo, Seedorf, Roberto Carlos – or even the great Bodo Illgner and then Casillas afterwards. There are too many. You ask too much.

Opponent

Élber wasn’t bad – he had the technique and he was also fast. He was very direct in the way he played so that he could score and be effective. And the great Effenberg – incredible. I was lucky enough to play against some fantastic people but also great players. Plus there was Lizararzu on the left-hand side with Bayern Munich, Zinédine Zidane with Juve…

Stadium

For me, that stadium in Amsterdam is a monument. That and the Stade de France, because those are the two places where I won the Champions League.

Imagine hearing a knock at your door and answering it to find the Champions League trophy on your doorstep. Then heading back inside with it to learn that one of your heroes is online waiting to watch a rerun of your team winning that very same silverware. That’s what happened to one lucky Real Madrid supporter in December, with Christian Karembeu the star ready to press play on the club’s 1-0 victory against Juventus in the 1998 final in Amsterdam. Here, in the fourth of a series of interviews with five former champions on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, Karembeu discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him. 

First of all, how did it go with the fan?

It was really good fun. And best of all, they had the Champions League trophy in their living room! Sure, it was a match from the past, but the atmosphere and setting were exceptional. It was a nice surprise – for all of us. It was a great first to use this new technology to get close to the fans and have this nice experience together, to watch and discuss a match [the 1998 final], and to share a moment between fan and player.

Christian Karembeu gives chase after Pedrag Mijatović’s goal in the 1998 final

What was it like to rewatch the 1998 final?

It was invigorating. My first final. My first Champions League win. Nothing but happiness. Those are memories that will never die. It also made me think about the difficult reality of today, seeing all those people in Amsterdam whereas now the pandemic limits the opportunity to have fans present. Luckily, by sharing the experience with fans, we can tell them what’s happening even when there are no spectators at games – just as we can when there are spectators. They’re different atmospheres, but we have to accept it.


What does the trophy represent for you?

What was extraordinary– thinking of that Real Madrid-Juve final, for example – was that I went off to kiss the cup. I don’t know what I was thinking. I kissed the cup because it was an invitation: I had to kiss the trophy so it would belong to me, come to me. You can’t do that any more with the pandemic! You can’t kiss the cup any more.

What did that 1998 triumph mean to those fans?

After 32 years without [winning the trophy], of course it was a revolution in Madrid. There were thousands of people at the Plaza de Cibeles, it was the same at the airport, and at the stadium in Amsterdam they came in their numbers. I don’t know if there were Juve fans, but there were plenty of ours, with their flags and Real Madrid shirts. And, above all, we finally won La Séptima in colour – 32 years after Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kopa, Sanchis – and with a great team too, before the Galácticos. We managed to make the club and the whole spirit of Real Madrid proud. It’s eternal. We laid the path for a whole new generation and we continue to pass that on. It’s the club that has won the most Champions Leagues and they’ll continue with Zizou and continue after that.

In 1998, it was the first time those Madrid fans had seen that modern trophy. All Madrid’s previous six wins had been with the original trophy, which the club was allowed to keep after the 1966 triumph…

It was the first time, that trophy with the big ears. If only you could cut off an ear and keep it at home… It’s true that the cup with the big ears is a dream for many, many players. And imagine the fans being there and wanting to touch it, because for them it was normal not just to touch the players but also to touch the cup. It excited them and they’d waited for it for years. They were intense during the game and influenced us to win the trophy.

Christian Karembeu celebrates with the trophy in Amsterdam


Of course, that win didn’t just resonate in Madrid but across the world. How was the reaction in New Caledonia, where you were born?

Thanks to the France team and also Real Madrid, I was able to put New Caledonia on the map. Thanks to football, thanks to those victories, people now know where New Caledonia is. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but I know that the power of football and the Champions league is global. It’s known around the world, so your victory is global as well. Whenever I win, it’s a national holiday in New Caledonia!

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!
Best of the best
Karembeu’s Champions League Best of the Best

Moment

The most exceptional moment was when I chased Mijatović after he scored the goal [in the 1998 Champions League final]. I think I ran 50m just behind him to celebrate with him and our team-mates. It was such a powerful moment because it was a release for us, given how strong and dangerous Juve were. But we managed to score and we could now defend that goal and make the most of it. And win, above all.

Goal

I have to say Predrag Mijatović, because it wasn’t easy from that tight angle. To control like that on the turn and score with the other foot – that was Predrag Mijatović. I don’t know if I or someone else could have done it, but he did. And in such a small space, a tight angle, with two defenders on him, and to score the winning goal! It was just exceptional. You don’t become blind to everything else because you need to continue the match. But that moment of effervescence, of release, of screaming and joy – it’s transcendent, because it’s not just a question of celebrating but also defending that lead afterwards. But we had to let out the stress by celebrating that goal with Pedja. And, above all, we had to do it together, united. He takes off towards the bench and we follow him. There were almost 20 of us on Pedja. We demonstrated a solidarity and unity which showed that nothing could stop us at that moment. It wasn’t just about shutting out everything else; we were saying here we are, we’ll stand together and we will win.

Player

It’s too difficult, whether it’s Raúl, Morientes, Šuker, Mijatović, Redondo, Seedorf, Roberto Carlos – or even the great Bodo Illgner and then Casillas afterwards. There are too many. You ask too much.

Opponent

Élber wasn’t bad – he had the technique and he was also fast. He was very direct in the way he played so that he could score and be effective. And the great Effenberg – incredible. I was lucky enough to play against some fantastic people but also great players. Plus there was Lizararzu on the left-hand side with Bayern Munich, Zinédine Zidane with Juve…

Stadium

For me, that stadium in Amsterdam is a monument. That and the Stade de France, because those are the two places where I won the Champions League.

Imagine hearing a knock at your door and answering it to find the Champions League trophy on your doorstep. Then heading back inside with it to learn that one of your heroes is online waiting to watch a rerun of your team winning that very same silverware. That’s what happened to one lucky Real Madrid supporter in December, with Christian Karembeu the star ready to press play on the club’s 1-0 victory against Juventus in the 1998 final in Amsterdam. Here, in the fourth of a series of interviews with five former champions on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, Karembeu discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him. 

First of all, how did it go with the fan?

It was really good fun. And best of all, they had the Champions League trophy in their living room! Sure, it was a match from the past, but the atmosphere and setting were exceptional. It was a nice surprise – for all of us. It was a great first to use this new technology to get close to the fans and have this nice experience together, to watch and discuss a match [the 1998 final], and to share a moment between fan and player.

Christian Karembeu gives chase after Pedrag Mijatović’s goal in the 1998 final

What was it like to rewatch the 1998 final?

It was invigorating. My first final. My first Champions League win. Nothing but happiness. Those are memories that will never die. It also made me think about the difficult reality of today, seeing all those people in Amsterdam whereas now the pandemic limits the opportunity to have fans present. Luckily, by sharing the experience with fans, we can tell them what’s happening even when there are no spectators at games – just as we can when there are spectators. They’re different atmospheres, but we have to accept it.


What does the trophy represent for you?

What was extraordinary– thinking of that Real Madrid-Juve final, for example – was that I went off to kiss the cup. I don’t know what I was thinking. I kissed the cup because it was an invitation: I had to kiss the trophy so it would belong to me, come to me. You can’t do that any more with the pandemic! You can’t kiss the cup any more.

What did that 1998 triumph mean to those fans?

After 32 years without [winning the trophy], of course it was a revolution in Madrid. There were thousands of people at the Plaza de Cibeles, it was the same at the airport, and at the stadium in Amsterdam they came in their numbers. I don’t know if there were Juve fans, but there were plenty of ours, with their flags and Real Madrid shirts. And, above all, we finally won La Séptima in colour – 32 years after Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kopa, Sanchis – and with a great team too, before the Galácticos. We managed to make the club and the whole spirit of Real Madrid proud. It’s eternal. We laid the path for a whole new generation and we continue to pass that on. It’s the club that has won the most Champions Leagues and they’ll continue with Zizou and continue after that.

In 1998, it was the first time those Madrid fans had seen that modern trophy. All Madrid’s previous six wins had been with the original trophy, which the club was allowed to keep after the 1966 triumph…

It was the first time, that trophy with the big ears. If only you could cut off an ear and keep it at home… It’s true that the cup with the big ears is a dream for many, many players. And imagine the fans being there and wanting to touch it, because for them it was normal not just to touch the players but also to touch the cup. It excited them and they’d waited for it for years. They were intense during the game and influenced us to win the trophy.

Christian Karembeu celebrates with the trophy in Amsterdam


Of course, that win didn’t just resonate in Madrid but across the world. How was the reaction in New Caledonia, where you were born?

Thanks to the France team and also Real Madrid, I was able to put New Caledonia on the map. Thanks to football, thanks to those victories, people now know where New Caledonia is. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but I know that the power of football and the Champions league is global. It’s known around the world, so your victory is global as well. Whenever I win, it’s a national holiday in New Caledonia!

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Christian Karembeu: Nothing could stop us

Moment

The most exceptional moment was when I chased Mijatović after he scored the goal [in the 1998 Champions League final]. I think I ran 50m just behind him to celebrate with him and our team-mates. It was such a powerful moment because it was a release for us, given how strong and dangerous Juve were. But we managed to score and we could now defend that goal and make the most of it. And win, above all.

Goal

I have to say Predrag Mijatović, because it wasn’t easy from that tight angle. To control like that on the turn and score with the other foot – that was Predrag Mijatović. I don’t know if I or someone else could have done it, but he did. And in such a small space, a tight angle, with two defenders on him, and to score the winning goal! It was just exceptional. You don’t become blind to everything else because you need to continue the match. But that moment of effervescence, of release, of screaming and joy – it’s transcendent, because it’s not just a question of celebrating but also defending that lead afterwards. But we had to let out the stress by celebrating that goal with Pedja. And, above all, we had to do it together, united. He takes off towards the bench and we follow him. There were almost 20 of us on Pedja. We demonstrated a solidarity and unity which showed that nothing could stop us at that moment. It wasn’t just about shutting out everything else; we were saying here we are, we’ll stand together and we will win.

Player

It’s too difficult, whether it’s Raúl, Morientes, Šuker, Mijatović, Redondo, Seedorf, Roberto Carlos – or even the great Bodo Illgner and then Casillas afterwards. There are too many. You ask too much.

Opponent

Élber wasn’t bad – he had the technique and he was also fast. He was very direct in the way he played so that he could score and be effective. And the great Effenberg – incredible. I was lucky enough to play against some fantastic people but also great players. Plus there was Lizararzu on the left-hand side with Bayern Munich, Zinédine Zidane with Juve…

Stadium

For me, that stadium in Amsterdam is a monument. That and the Stade de France, because those are the two places where I won the Champions League.

Nissan Trophy Tour 2020

Christian Karembeu: Nothing could stop us

In this series of interviews, five champions talk fans, glory and getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize

INTERVIEW Michael Harrold

Imagine hearing a knock at your door and answering it to find the Champions League trophy on your doorstep. Then heading back inside with it to learn that one of your heroes is online waiting to watch a rerun of your team winning that very same silverware. That’s what happened to one lucky Real Madrid supporter in December, with Christian Karembeu the star ready to press play on the club’s 1-0 victory against Juventus in the 1998 final in Amsterdam. Here, in the fourth of a series of interviews with five former champions on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, Karembeu discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him. 

First of all, how did it go with the fan?

It was really good fun. And best of all, they had the Champions League trophy in their living room! Sure, it was a match from the past, but the atmosphere and setting were exceptional. It was a nice surprise – for all of us. It was a great first to use this new technology to get close to the fans and have this nice experience together, to watch and discuss a match [the 1998 final], and to share a moment between fan and player.

Christian Karembeu gives chase after Pedrag Mijatović’s goal in the 1998 final

What was it like to rewatch the 1998 final?

It was invigorating. My first final. My first Champions League win. Nothing but happiness. Those are memories that will never die. It also made me think about the difficult reality of today, seeing all those people in Amsterdam whereas now the pandemic limits the opportunity to have fans present. Luckily, by sharing the experience with fans, we can tell them what’s happening even when there are no spectators at games – just as we can when there are spectators. They’re different atmospheres, but we have to accept it.


What does the trophy represent for you?

What was extraordinary– thinking of that Real Madrid-Juve final, for example – was that I went off to kiss the cup. I don’t know what I was thinking. I kissed the cup because it was an invitation: I had to kiss the trophy so it would belong to me, come to me. You can’t do that any more with the pandemic! You can’t kiss the cup any more.

What did that 1998 triumph mean to those fans?

After 32 years without [winning the trophy], of course it was a revolution in Madrid. There were thousands of people at the Plaza de Cibeles, it was the same at the airport, and at the stadium in Amsterdam they came in their numbers. I don’t know if there were Juve fans, but there were plenty of ours, with their flags and Real Madrid shirts. And, above all, we finally won La Séptima in colour – 32 years after Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kopa, Sanchis – and with a great team too, before the Galácticos. We managed to make the club and the whole spirit of Real Madrid proud. It’s eternal. We laid the path for a whole new generation and we continue to pass that on. It’s the club that has won the most Champions Leagues and they’ll continue with Zizou and continue after that.

In 1998, it was the first time those Madrid fans had seen that modern trophy. All Madrid’s previous six wins had been with the original trophy, which the club was allowed to keep after the 1966 triumph…

It was the first time, that trophy with the big ears. If only you could cut off an ear and keep it at home… It’s true that the cup with the big ears is a dream for many, many players. And imagine the fans being there and wanting to touch it, because for them it was normal not just to touch the players but also to touch the cup. It excited them and they’d waited for it for years. They were intense during the game and influenced us to win the trophy.

Christian Karembeu celebrates with the trophy in Amsterdam


Of course, that win didn’t just resonate in Madrid but across the world. How was the reaction in New Caledonia, where you were born?

Thanks to the France team and also Real Madrid, I was able to put New Caledonia on the map. Thanks to football, thanks to those victories, people now know where New Caledonia is. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but I know that the power of football and the Champions league is global. It’s known around the world, so your victory is global as well. Whenever I win, it’s a national holiday in New Caledonia!

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Penalty Pedigree

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Imagine hearing a knock at your door and answering it to find the Champions League trophy on your doorstep. Then heading back inside with it to learn that one of your heroes is online waiting to watch a rerun of your team winning that very same silverware. That’s what happened to one lucky Real Madrid supporter in December, with Christian Karembeu the star ready to press play on the club’s 1-0 victory against Juventus in the 1998 final in Amsterdam. Here, in the fourth of a series of interviews with five former champions on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, Karembeu discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him. 

First of all, how did it go with the fan?

It was really good fun. And best of all, they had the Champions League trophy in their living room! Sure, it was a match from the past, but the atmosphere and setting were exceptional. It was a nice surprise – for all of us. It was a great first to use this new technology to get close to the fans and have this nice experience together, to watch and discuss a match [the 1998 final], and to share a moment between fan and player.

Christian Karembeu gives chase after Pedrag Mijatović’s goal in the 1998 final

What was it like to rewatch the 1998 final?

It was invigorating. My first final. My first Champions League win. Nothing but happiness. Those are memories that will never die. It also made me think about the difficult reality of today, seeing all those people in Amsterdam whereas now the pandemic limits the opportunity to have fans present. Luckily, by sharing the experience with fans, we can tell them what’s happening even when there are no spectators at games – just as we can when there are spectators. They’re different atmospheres, but we have to accept it.


What does the trophy represent for you?

What was extraordinary– thinking of that Real Madrid-Juve final, for example – was that I went off to kiss the cup. I don’t know what I was thinking. I kissed the cup because it was an invitation: I had to kiss the trophy so it would belong to me, come to me. You can’t do that any more with the pandemic! You can’t kiss the cup any more.

What did that 1998 triumph mean to those fans?

After 32 years without [winning the trophy], of course it was a revolution in Madrid. There were thousands of people at the Plaza de Cibeles, it was the same at the airport, and at the stadium in Amsterdam they came in their numbers. I don’t know if there were Juve fans, but there were plenty of ours, with their flags and Real Madrid shirts. And, above all, we finally won La Séptima in colour – 32 years after Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kopa, Sanchis – and with a great team too, before the Galácticos. We managed to make the club and the whole spirit of Real Madrid proud. It’s eternal. We laid the path for a whole new generation and we continue to pass that on. It’s the club that has won the most Champions Leagues and they’ll continue with Zizou and continue after that.

In 1998, it was the first time those Madrid fans had seen that modern trophy. All Madrid’s previous six wins had been with the original trophy, which the club was allowed to keep after the 1966 triumph…

It was the first time, that trophy with the big ears. If only you could cut off an ear and keep it at home… It’s true that the cup with the big ears is a dream for many, many players. And imagine the fans being there and wanting to touch it, because for them it was normal not just to touch the players but also to touch the cup. It excited them and they’d waited for it for years. They were intense during the game and influenced us to win the trophy.

Christian Karembeu celebrates with the trophy in Amsterdam


Of course, that win didn’t just resonate in Madrid but across the world. How was the reaction in New Caledonia, where you were born?

Thanks to the France team and also Real Madrid, I was able to put New Caledonia on the map. Thanks to football, thanks to those victories, people now know where New Caledonia is. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but I know that the power of football and the Champions league is global. It’s known around the world, so your victory is global as well. Whenever I win, it’s a national holiday in New Caledonia!

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!
Best of the best
Karembeu’s Champions League Best of the Best

Moment

The most exceptional moment was when I chased Mijatović after he scored the goal [in the 1998 Champions League final]. I think I ran 50m just behind him to celebrate with him and our team-mates. It was such a powerful moment because it was a release for us, given how strong and dangerous Juve were. But we managed to score and we could now defend that goal and make the most of it. And win, above all.

Goal

I have to say Predrag Mijatović, because it wasn’t easy from that tight angle. To control like that on the turn and score with the other foot – that was Predrag Mijatović. I don’t know if I or someone else could have done it, but he did. And in such a small space, a tight angle, with two defenders on him, and to score the winning goal! It was just exceptional. You don’t become blind to everything else because you need to continue the match. But that moment of effervescence, of release, of screaming and joy – it’s transcendent, because it’s not just a question of celebrating but also defending that lead afterwards. But we had to let out the stress by celebrating that goal with Pedja. And, above all, we had to do it together, united. He takes off towards the bench and we follow him. There were almost 20 of us on Pedja. We demonstrated a solidarity and unity which showed that nothing could stop us at that moment. It wasn’t just about shutting out everything else; we were saying here we are, we’ll stand together and we will win.

Player

It’s too difficult, whether it’s Raúl, Morientes, Šuker, Mijatović, Redondo, Seedorf, Roberto Carlos – or even the great Bodo Illgner and then Casillas afterwards. There are too many. You ask too much.

Opponent

Élber wasn’t bad – he had the technique and he was also fast. He was very direct in the way he played so that he could score and be effective. And the great Effenberg – incredible. I was lucky enough to play against some fantastic people but also great players. Plus there was Lizararzu on the left-hand side with Bayern Munich, Zinédine Zidane with Juve…

Stadium

For me, that stadium in Amsterdam is a monument. That and the Stade de France, because those are the two places where I won the Champions League.

Imagine hearing a knock at your door and answering it to find the Champions League trophy on your doorstep. Then heading back inside with it to learn that one of your heroes is online waiting to watch a rerun of your team winning that very same silverware. That’s what happened to one lucky Real Madrid supporter in December, with Christian Karembeu the star ready to press play on the club’s 1-0 victory against Juventus in the 1998 final in Amsterdam. Here, in the fourth of a series of interviews with five former champions on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, Karembeu discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him. 

First of all, how did it go with the fan?

It was really good fun. And best of all, they had the Champions League trophy in their living room! Sure, it was a match from the past, but the atmosphere and setting were exceptional. It was a nice surprise – for all of us. It was a great first to use this new technology to get close to the fans and have this nice experience together, to watch and discuss a match [the 1998 final], and to share a moment between fan and player.

Christian Karembeu gives chase after Pedrag Mijatović’s goal in the 1998 final

What was it like to rewatch the 1998 final?

It was invigorating. My first final. My first Champions League win. Nothing but happiness. Those are memories that will never die. It also made me think about the difficult reality of today, seeing all those people in Amsterdam whereas now the pandemic limits the opportunity to have fans present. Luckily, by sharing the experience with fans, we can tell them what’s happening even when there are no spectators at games – just as we can when there are spectators. They’re different atmospheres, but we have to accept it.


What does the trophy represent for you?

What was extraordinary– thinking of that Real Madrid-Juve final, for example – was that I went off to kiss the cup. I don’t know what I was thinking. I kissed the cup because it was an invitation: I had to kiss the trophy so it would belong to me, come to me. You can’t do that any more with the pandemic! You can’t kiss the cup any more.

What did that 1998 triumph mean to those fans?

After 32 years without [winning the trophy], of course it was a revolution in Madrid. There were thousands of people at the Plaza de Cibeles, it was the same at the airport, and at the stadium in Amsterdam they came in their numbers. I don’t know if there were Juve fans, but there were plenty of ours, with their flags and Real Madrid shirts. And, above all, we finally won La Séptima in colour – 32 years after Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kopa, Sanchis – and with a great team too, before the Galácticos. We managed to make the club and the whole spirit of Real Madrid proud. It’s eternal. We laid the path for a whole new generation and we continue to pass that on. It’s the club that has won the most Champions Leagues and they’ll continue with Zizou and continue after that.

In 1998, it was the first time those Madrid fans had seen that modern trophy. All Madrid’s previous six wins had been with the original trophy, which the club was allowed to keep after the 1966 triumph…

It was the first time, that trophy with the big ears. If only you could cut off an ear and keep it at home… It’s true that the cup with the big ears is a dream for many, many players. And imagine the fans being there and wanting to touch it, because for them it was normal not just to touch the players but also to touch the cup. It excited them and they’d waited for it for years. They were intense during the game and influenced us to win the trophy.

Christian Karembeu celebrates with the trophy in Amsterdam


Of course, that win didn’t just resonate in Madrid but across the world. How was the reaction in New Caledonia, where you were born?

Thanks to the France team and also Real Madrid, I was able to put New Caledonia on the map. Thanks to football, thanks to those victories, people now know where New Caledonia is. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but I know that the power of football and the Champions league is global. It’s known around the world, so your victory is global as well. Whenever I win, it’s a national holiday in New Caledonia!

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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