Olivier Tebily: Former Birmingham City star gave up football and bought land to make cognac

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FANCY a nice drop? 

Well, if you’re a football fan, like Birmingham City or Celtic and don’t mind a spot of brandy, you’re in luck.

Olivier Tebily
Olivier Tebily launched his own brandy business when he retired

Former Blues defender Olivier Tebily, 42, was a bruiser as a player, often leaving marks on opposition’s legs.

But now, he is more likely to leave you with a heavy head thanks to the fact he owns a vineyard.

After he gave up the game in 2008, Tebily continued his dream to make brandy, which he now calls Cognac OT.

So far, Tebily has produced several bottles of Cognac, retailing from around £48 to as much as about £135.


Olivier Tebily
To realise his dream, Tebily bought several hectares of land
Twitter @cognacot
Olivier Tebily
Tebily produces Cognac that sells for up to £135 a bottle
BBC
Olivier Tebily
The vineyard owned by Tebily sits in the French village of Salles-d’Angles
Twitter @cognacot

He owns 22 hectares of land in the French town of Cognac, where only brandy made in that region can be called the prestigious name of Cognac.

“When I signed my first professional contract, I bought two hectares,” Tebily told BBC Sport.


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His vineyard sits in the remote French village of Salles-d’Angles and was Tebily’s retirement plan should he have to retire from the game early through injury.

“I said to myself: ‘If I get an injury and football stops, I will have something to carry on with.’

Olivier Tebily
Tebily isn’t afraid of the hard graft that comes with being a Cognac maker
Twitter @cognacot
Olivier Tebily
In 1993, Tebily bought two hectares of land after signing his first contract
Twitter @cognacot
Olivier Tebily
Today, the Ivorian is Africa’s first ever Cognac distributor
Twitter @cognacot

“I did that because I used to work on this land to get a little bit of pocket money to go on holiday – to the seaside with my friends – before turning professional.

“It’s really difficult to become a professional so I bought this straight away to insure myself.”

In 1993, Tebily began his career with French second tier side Niort, an hour’s drive from the Cognac region of Poitiers, where he grew up with his parents.

It was the start of a career that saw him play for Chateauroux, then Sheffield United before winning a treble with Celtic in 2001.

Olivier Tebily
Tebily sells his Cognac to local restaurants and bigger companies
Cognac OT
Olivier Tebily
In football, Tebily won the treble with Celtic in 2001
News Group Newspapers Ltd

From 2002, Tebily played four seasons in the Premier League for Birmingham City.

Eventually, in 2008 he was forced to retire after suffering a bad knee injury at Toronto FC.

But that didn’t deter Tebily, who went back to the vineyards to produce some booze.

He bought more land from retiring Cognac farmer Jean-Michel Lepine (Tebily was a friend to his late son) who, to this day, acts as Tebiliy’s mentor.

Olivier Tebily
In 2002, Steve Bruce brought Tebily to Birmingham City
Getty Images – Getty
Olivier Tebily
Tebily played for four season in the Premier League with the Blues
Reuters

“The local people were really, really surprised by an African footballer trying to do what they are doing,” Tebily revealed.

“But I work Monday to Sunday and people are really surprised – they didn’t think I would do this work because it’s really hard.

“But I don’t do this to impress people. I love this work and want to go as far as I can.”

Tebily, who produced his first bottle in 2013, sells around 90% of his produce to bigger companies and local businesses.

Olivier Tebily
Passionate about his new vocation, Tebily produced his first bottle of Cognac in 2013
BBC
Olivier Tebily
Eventually, Tebily want to trade his Cognac exclusively with Africa
Cognac OT
Olivier Tebily
Tebily said he enjoys making Cognac as much he did playing football
Times Newspapers Ltd


However, the Ivorian wants to stay close to his roots and trade only with Africa. “That’s my dream,” he revealed.

“I am already selling to some restaurants in Africa, in Ivory Coast. It’s not as much as I want but I’m still happy because it’s the beginning and it’s working.”

And it’s a vocation Tebily admitted makes him just as happy as when he first stepped onto the football pitch.

“It makes me feel really, really happy and that’s why I am fighting to do my business correctly,” he divulged. “I try because I am passionate. I love this like I loved football.”