by Aline Shuttle
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He knows National 1 like few players do. Parfait Najeba, 32, is emerging from nine seasons in the French third division. Stefan Eberlin, his new coach at Caen, has known him for a long time. “He’s a player I’ve been following for a long time,” he said. He has real physical skills, great athletic qualities. He’ll bring me this 3-point shooting ability in position 3 and all his overall defense, as he can defend in positions 1-4. It’s very interesting from a tactical point of view. Perfect Njiba will also bring his state of mind to a project that aims above all else to be teamwork. Keep a smile on your face.
At what age did basketball start?
I started at the age of fifteen in the town of Noisy-le-Sec. I was a soccer player at first, like any Parisian (smile). We all tried ball in school.
were you okay
I wouldn’t say I could have gotten a job, but I did. After that, friends introduced me to the world of basketball. They loved the “American Show” aspect. At first, I didn’t know how to play. What developed my competitive side so early on was that I was finally picked when my buddies formed their team. I wanted to show everyone that I could be good. Thanks to the work, I realized that I was doing a good job. I managed to make my way.
‘No better than Paris to form a mentality’
Your character has been revealed from the start…
Yes, very early. In Paris, we are fortunate to be in an area where there are a lot of basketball players. There are also a lot of tournaments, which means that we develop the idea of competition very early on. We have a lot of room with each other, and we really want to prove… I think there’s no better place than Paris to make up a mindset. Outside, it’s a different mentality and a different basketball. In Paris, the game is highly dependent on sporting qualities.
Have you been a Parisian basketball player throughout your career?
No, it has evolved. The higher your level, the greater the role of the tactical side. The game is teamwork rather than individual. You have to succeed in conditioning basketball, this is probably the hardest part. When we are young, we accept it less easily. We’re fiery, we really want to show we have our place. As we get older, we simplify our game. There are some who have been able to do this at a younger age but I definitely wanted to prove it. As I got older I was able to direct my game.
“I have the ambition to learn to ascend.”
Your career has essentially taken place at National Level 1…
I’ve been on National 1 since 2012-2013. Previously, I was at National 2 in Cergy. I had the chance to see my first climb and my first French Championship title in N2. After that, I developed for a year at Cergy in N1. Then I spent two years in Mulhouse, three years in Saint-Vallier, two years in Boulogne, one year in Andrezio, and here I am in Caen.
Do you feel you have a single national player rating?
This is also because I made career choices. Perhaps having the opportunity to develop into Pro B, I chose to stay in National 1 to take on more responsibilities. I have ambitions to try climbing with the National 1 team to be able to play in Pro B. I haven’t had a chance to try that yet. I hope to know this joy soon. I’ve been with a lot of teams that weren’t far from getting there. Achieving this goal requires a lot of sacrifices.
Aren’t you the black cat?
No, I don’t think so (smiles). If you are, I hope this curse is broken! But it is true that it is often played with little. I was in the semi-finals of the qualifiers in Saint-Vallier, where I also played with Moise (Diamy). With the team we formed together, I hope to finally experience that dedication here. Ten years later, she will be beautiful.
Do you know a recipe for advancement?
I think the most important thing is to build the chemistry in the group. We can have a great team on paper, but it’s inevitable that we’ll stumble at some point if we don’t have chemistry. Then there is the gift of self, the sacrifice. We all want to shine, but not everyone can shine at the same time. If there is a game where you have to “dirty” friends, then you should do it. If we can get that state of mind, it will already be a good step towards our goal. The group is more important than the individual.
“I’m an emotional player”
With your experience and this rhetoric, should you be part of the CEOs of this team?
I can get that role sometimes. We have a lot of experienced players so we can tell each other things. We’ve come to an age… I wouldn’t say we don’t have anything to prove anymore, but we did everything we had to do individually. What really matters to us is that we have this collective dedication. I can do it but I let the adults do it. I love messing around. For me, basketball remains a show. Even if there are mathematical problems, we must not forget that it is still a game, and if I lose it, I lose the joy of living and the joy of playing. I often mess around, but I stay serious.
How is your joy of life expressed in court?
It shows in my game, I’m an emotional player. I express my feelings a lot on the pitch. I always try to smile, because I love to play, I love to climb mountains when it’s hard, and I love to create feats. I love these feelings that basketball can give us. I think he will appear in my game, and those who do not know me will find out. Moïse (Diamé) knows how I am, Flo (Thibedore) too because he confronted me. I love the room, love the whole little basketball show.
Are there any Parisian years left?
This is it ! It’s really my Parisian side. The roommate, the party, it’s art. Not everyone can do that (laughs).
When there are big matches in the Sports Palace, 3200 people will be waiting for it!
We know there are high expectations around this season. The audience will be behind us. The first thing that matters to us is to be an impregnable fortress at home. It would also be necessary to export that abroad, which is much more complicated. But we want to make sure the opponents say to themselves: ‘It’s hard to come and play at Caen’.
“I want to live a real human adventure”
What made you want to come to Caen?
The project, the idea of continuing to play climbing, the coach I’ve known for a long time and who has already gone up twice, and the players who stayed. But what I really liked was the coach’s speech, his desire to push the team forward. I’m at a point in my career where my priority is to win my title, to live my renaissance. I don’t hear that I scored 16 or 17 points on average. Younger, it was. Today, I want to live a true human adventure and end up with something beautiful.
Are you already thinking about the end of your career?
Should. Since my major injury (had surgery for a herniated disc three years ago, editor’s note), I think about it a lot more. Everything can stop overnight. But I still have this flame inside of me. Guys, they could be twenty, if they’re not ready for that, that’s not my problem (laughs)!
Cool, was that in your mother’s eyes or is it real?
It’s my dad… I was born on 11/11, a day off, so they thought I was perfect (laughs). As I always say, I’m perfect but with one exception. It’s very hard to get by with a first name, but I do. I hope to be perfect on Earth, at least in what I’m going to say.
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