For the second year running, AS Monaco Women have fallen agonisingly short of promotion from the R1, in a season marred by off-the-pitch difficulties.
Les Monégasques strolled to a 5-0 victory against SC Mouans Sartoux in their final home match of the season at the Stade du Prince Héréditaire Jacques. Incidentally, it was the first time that AS Monaco Women had played at the pitch that they called home last season, with the club this season forced to play their home matches many kilometres away in Blausasc. The difficulty in procuring a pitch is just many difficulties encountered by the club this season.
On the pitch, promotion has escaped Monaco by the narrowest of margins. The club’s season will end in Toulon this coming weekend, but there will be nothing to play for. Les Monégasques have largely been in a league of their own this season, just like last season, but once again, promotion to the old D2, now D3, will cruelly evade them.
Last year, they came up against Toulouse in the play-off final, and only narrowly lost. This year, a structural change within the league meant that the first-place side would earn automatic promotion, but unfortunately, Monaco weren’t alone in being a cut above the rest. AS Cannes Football have also outclassed many of their opponents, notably Monaco, edging a narrow 3-2 victory earlier in the season, a result which would ultimately prove decisive.
“A season full of emotions and plot twists”
With their season’s objectives beyond them, coach Laurent Banide departed in March, with Tony Ribeiro taking charge in the interim, but it is uncertain whether he will remain in charge beyond the end of the current campaign. Whoever takes charge will be faced with the same objective as in the previous three seasons, as club President André-Pierre Couffet told Monaco Life.
“Our objective for the past two/three years has been the same: to earn promotion. We’ll go again next year, and we’ll take steps forward slowly but surely. This season, we haven’t been able to bring together the right ingredients to go up. I think that Cannes were at the same level as us. There was nothing in it, and last year we were better than everyone,” he said.
Whilst, bar the hiccup against Cannes, results have been consistent on the pitch, matters off-the-pitch have been much more uncertain with the club encountering issues with the investors, which still need to be resolved.
“The season has been a bit chaotic regarding investors that came in and gave us their support, upon which we constructed our team, then there was a sort of discord, meaning that they left in February, which left us, financially and within a sporting context too, in a bit of a tight spot. Happily, the team came back together, and today is proof of that, with lots of emotions,” Couffet told Monaco Life.
The club’s Sporting Director Thomas Martini added, “It has been a season full of emotions and full of plot twists as well, very atypical, with a team that finishes second, but so close to the first place. We were only three points away, so it’s frustrating, but we’re not going to look at the past. We finished well, and there is a cup final as well. We’re already preparing for next season with the desire to earn that promotion.”
Integration into the AS Monaco family?
Things will be different next season. In the wake of Monaco’s 5-0 victory on Sunday, there were scenes of jubilation in the dressing room; despite the difficulties, morale within the squad clearly remains high. But not all of them will be there next season.
All of the Monaco Women’s teams from U6-U18 level were present, and integrating some of those youth players is a possibility in the off-season. “The project is a youthful one,” Martini tells Monaco Life.
The same applies to the AS Monaco professional men’s side. The AS Monaco Women’s side isn’t part of the same organisation, but that isn’t for lack of desire on the part of the Women’s team.
“Joining the AS Monaco family? On our side, we would like to. I’m favourable to it because in order to grow, it has to be done. We have the structure, and there isn’t anything to construct, just to be taken under their wing and help us financially,” said Couffet.
Regardless of an eventual integration into the AS Monaco structure, the Women’s side will be working towards ensuring off-the-pitch stability for the upcoming campaign, which they hope will finally propel them towards that much-deserved promotion. In the meantime, there is still the opportunity for silverware with a cup final, being held in Biot, taking place early next month. The final whistle in that match will act as a starting gun for the management at AS Monaco Women, who have the considerable task of realigning the project in the coming weeks and months.
Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life