NEWS.MC recently had the pleasure of catching up with Louis Ducruet, the President and Captain of the Barbagiuans, ahead of the upcoming Fight AIDS Cup in its thrilling fourth edition.

The Fight AIDS Cup brings together football legends to create a game of the greats, in order to raise funds for Fight AIDS Monaco, the non-profit NGO founded by Ducruet’s mother, HSH Princess Stéphanie 20 years ago this year.

“It is a special year for three reasons, as we are celebrating my grandfather’s centenary, we are also celebrating 50 years of the circus festival and 20 years of Fight AIDS Monaco,” Ducruet told NEWS.MC, adding that this year “We have a special jersey to celebrate the centenary.”

Ducruet credits his grandfather, Prince Rainier III, and his uncle, HSH Prince Albert II, with kicking off his passion for football; “in Monaco it is difficult to not be passionate about football. In the past, when I was young, my uncle and my grandfather pushed me to love football as well with opportunities to go and watch the games of AS Monaco and meet the players.” As far as the Stade Louis II goes, Ducruet knows “every corridor, entrance and peculiarity.”

It was at the instigation of Prince Albert that the Barbagiuans of Monaco were founded in 1980, although it was known as ‘Munegu Autu’ at the time of its conception. Since then, the Barbagiuans have developed into an association that seeks to bring together former Monegasque footballing greats alongside other personalities linked to the Principality, under the same shirt and for a noble cause.

“It is a really big honour and I am happy to have taken the lead in this team,” Ducruet tells NEWS.MC as he prepares to lead the Barbagiuans into another match against the formidable Cirque FC, of which Princess Stephanie is the president.

Ducruet follows in the footsteps of his uncle, not just at the helm of the team, but also in his position on the pitch. “I always play in the position that my uncle was playing in, at right-back. I’m not sure if I am at the same level as him but I try to honour him,” said Ducruet, modestly adding that “I think the last time I scored in an elevens game was a long time ago and not on purpose I think.”

Despite this humble outlook, Ducruet and the Barbagiuans beat Cirque FC for the first time in Fight AIDS Cup history in 2023. This year is shaping up to be another heavyweight clash, with new faces in the line-up as well as many returning greats.

“Every new player is exciting to play with or against, but it is also a pleasure to play again with returning players because we create a relationship on the pitch, said Ducruet, adding that “It is also a pleasure to face returning players again because we have developed a rivalry, which is really exciting.”

One returning star to the Barbagiuans is none other than Charles Leclerc, a furiously fast Monegasque who dabbles in football. “Charles always tries to come and play for at least one half, despite it being complicated for him at this point in the year, he has preseason training in Italy, so it is really nice of him to give us his time,” says Ducruet.

“We sometimes have to convince players to come for the first time, but returning players often ask us when the next game will be. We have a special relationship with Didier Deschamps for example, who has been happy to give us his time to support a Monaco charity,” the Barbagiuans captain added.

When asked if Ducruet gets nervous before the big match, he replied “I’m getting used to the game nerves, I’m more focused on how the event is going and if everything is going well for everyone. On the pitch I try to relax and enjoy the game. The most important thing is to transmit the values of solidarity through the event, as well as the importance of defending a noble cause such as the fight against AIDS, while also remaining competitive in order to carry the trophy again.”

The Fight AIDS Cup will return to the Stade Louis on Monday, January 22. Tickets for the highly anticipated event will be available for 10 euros each on the AS Monaco online ticket office in the coming days.

The Barbagiuans with the Fight AIDS Cup in 2023

Image credits: Frédéric Nebinger & Michael Alesi. Palais Princier, Direction de la Communication.