FIU star midfielder and French native Joris Ahlinvi spent this past July 15 in his hometown of Bordeaux at a sports bar.
He and his friends got there three hours before the start of the 2018 World Cup final.
“I wanted to get a good spot in front of the TV,” Ahlinvi said.
Just as when he plays soccer, proper positioning paid off for Ahlinvi, who spent the most triumphant night of his life in that establishment as France defeated Croatia 4-2, hoisting soccer’s Holy Grail for the first time since 1998.
“It was incredible — everyone went crazy,” Ahlinvi said of the celebrations for France.
“The last time we won, I was too little [three years old].
“This World Cup, I have never lived through something that huge before. No matter if you knew the guy next to you or not, we were all hugging each other.”
Ahlinvi, a speedy 23-year-old who plays on FIU’s wings, is only part of the Panthers’ French connection. Starting goalie Hugo Fauroux is from Cannes, and freshman defender Jules Desportes is from Evreux.
Fauroux watched the World Cup final in Miramar at a Colombian restaurant. He celebrated that night and then flew home to Cannes the next morning.
“When I got home, people were still celebrating, singing, taking pictures,” Fauroux said. “It was super.”
That’s the same way FIU coach Kevin Nylen feels about the French players he’s had in his program, including midfielder Paul Marie, who graduated after last season and was a 2018 first-round pick of Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes.
Fauroux, who will turn 22 on Aug. 23, played his first two collegiate seasons at NCAA Division II Lake Erie, and he transferred to FIU, in part, because of the advice of Marie, a player he had met in France.
“The FIU ‘project’ was very interesting,” said Fauroux, a 6-1, 170-pound senior. “And Miami is beautiful. I don’t regret my decision.”
It was a good choice for FIU, too, as Fauroux started 17 of the Panthers’ 18 games last year, posting a 1.25 goals-against average.
He produced a 10-2-4 record and was a third-team Conference USA selection as the Panthers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ahlinvi, a 5-11 165-pound junior, has started 27 games in his first two years at FIU. He had five goals as a freshman and four scores and six assists as a sophomore.
A first-team Conference USA selection last year, Ahlinvi ranked third in the league in assists.
Ahlinvi, who is majoring in International Business, was in Paris when Nylen spotted him at a showcase tournament three years ago. Nylen offered him a scholarship, and Ahlinvi happily accepted.
It remains to be seen what the Panthers can accomplish this year, but it’s clear that France’s reputation as a soccer power has been enhanced with their World Cup victory.
“It can only help us,” Ahlinvi said. “We have some of the best soccer academies in the world, and this victory was just a confirmation that we have great young players in the system.”
Now France takes its place among world soccer powers such as Brazil, Germany and a few others on that top line.
“People are going to have their eyes on us now,” Fauroux said. “People are going to respect us more.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ FIU women’s soccer team, which finished 1-14 last season, is off to a 0-2 start, losing 2-0 to Stetson on Friday and 4-1 at Miami on Sunday. Ashley Adams scored FIU’s only goal of the weekend.
▪ FIU’s volleyball team lost an exhibition to Miami on Saturday, 25-22, 25-15, 25-18. FIU, which has 10 upperclassmen on its 19-player roster, begins its regular season on August 24 against visiting Florida A&M.
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