The defender won the Australian league title with his club Western United FC, which he joined in September 2021. A few hours after the match, he spoke about the emotions that this coronation gives.
Léo Lacroix became Australian champion on Saturday in Melbourne with his team Western United FC. This title, the first in the club’s history, was won after a final against rival Melbourne City (2-0). Before the start of the play-offs, the Vaudois defender had set himself the goal of becoming champions and writing the history of his club. A few hours after the decisive meeting, the former FC Sion player is proud.
How do you feel the day after the title and the festivities that followed?
I am very happy! Western United was only founded three years ago and it is great for the history of the club to be able to offer it a first title on the list. It was my personal goal and I am very happy that I was able to achieve it. As for the festivities that followed the game, we had dinner with the club and the awarding of the cup to our supporters. These two moments were very pleasant to witness.
On social networks we have seen several videos of you with the supporters. What role did they play during this final and how was the contact with them after the match?
Honestly it was great! During the season we have supporters, but they are not necessarily from Melbourne and therefore cannot attend all games. It is not easy because in Melbourne there is a historic club with Victory and there is City which is managed by the City Football Group (Editor’s Note: Company that manages several clubs, including Manchester City† In the country there are several clubs with a long history such as Adelaide or Brisbane. Since we are a new club, we need these kinds of titles to increase our fan base. But what I saw on Saturday was incredible, the head behind the goal created a great atmosphere throughout the game and it was important on our way to victory. On social media I have read several times that Western United have no supporters, but however many there are, the important thing is that they are there to support us.
It was the first title in the history of your club, does that give you extra pride?
Yes clearly! Two years ago, when rival Melbourne Victory wanted to bring me in, I was not motivated at all. When Western United came to me I’ll be honest I didn’t know the club at all but I inquired and spoke to the captain (Editor’s Note: Alessandro Diamanti, 17 selections with Italy) which motivated me to come. When I got here I said I wanted us to make history and do everything we can to win the title. It’s great to be part of the team that offers the first title to a club. It reminds me a bit of the situation in 2015 with FC Sion when we won the 13th Swiss Cup, which was very symbolic with the 13 stars of the Valais flag. It’s a great sense of pride to win a title after working hard all season. My only small regret is that I wish we had won the regular season.
Exactly, it’s the second title in your career after the Swiss Cup 2015 with Sion, are the emotions you experience in Australia the same?
No, they are different. With Sion it was the first title in my career and it was the cup, we know everything it represents for the club. It’s different here, because it’s the first title in a club’s history and I’m really happy for the owner of the club and all the people who work there. From the outside you would think that given the youth of our club it is not well organized, but that is not the case. This crowning is justified as Western United were not necessarily respected in Australia, but that is now changing thanks to our season with the title of champion.
You won the title at the end of the play-off, how did you experience this novelty?
Obviously it was the first time for me to play in such a format. During the last week of the championship, I was disappointed because we played the decisive games and unfortunately did not win the regular championship. Mentally we had to switch to get back into winning mode. For the final we played against the two teams we had not beaten this season. In the quarter-finals we beat Wellington 1-0 and felt like something had sprung up in the group. Then in the semi-final against Melbourne Victory, even after losing 1-0 in the first leg, we were confident that we would qualify given the quality of our play and our dominance and in the end we won the first leg 4 -1 . The joy of taking the club to the final for the first time was immense. For the final, we prepared well all week and got the job done by beating Melbourne City 2-0, who won the regular season.
What did you think of the play-off format that will see the light of day in Switzerland in the 2023-2024 season?
As for the playoffs, it’s really different from the format I was used to. In Europe, you work all year to become champions or qualify for the European Cups, while here the clubs aim is to finish in the top six to qualify for the play-offs and then the final of a single match. With the arrival of a similar format in Switzerland, everyone will have to get used to it. Frankly, I don’t know how it’s going to work. I think the first season will be difficult because it is always difficult to change people’s habits.
Now that you’ve earned the title, do you know what your future will bring?
For now I am enjoying the present moment in Australia. My daughter is still in school and as soon as she is on vacation we take the opportunity to visit the country with the family. There is still time to think about next season.