The seventh crown will wait. The Blues fell on stronger in the final of the Handball World Cup, beaten Sunday January 29 in Stockholm (34-29) by Denmark which, after having raced in the lead from start to finish, offered an unprecedented hat-trick.
The Swedish capital seems somehow cursed for French handball. A bad nod to history, it is already there, right next to the Tele 2 Arena where the French suffered the law of Denmark, that the pioneers of 1993 lost in the final of the World Cup, against the Russia.
Sunday evening’s defeat will probably have a different taste for the Blues 2023, who were looking for gold and nothing else on Swedish soil a year and a half after winning the Olympic title in Tokyo, against these same Danes (25-23 ).
But, after their 2019 and 2021 titles, the Scandinavians took their revenge to write history with a world hat-trick that had never been achieved. The Blues had missed this mark twice (2009 and 2011 then 2015 and 2017) in the time of the “Experts”who therefore await their successors on the World Cup list.
No more world titles since 2017
Because apart from the golden parenthesis of Tokyo, the French team has not won a title since the world championship at home in 2017. The band of Guillaume Gille, promoted alone at the helm after the departure of Didier Dinart in the stride of the Euro-2020 fiasco (elimination in the first round), had fallen off the podium at the World Cup-2021 then at Euro-2022.
She is there this time but not on the top step for the tenth and last world championship of Nikola Karabatic. At 38, the handball legend started the match, despite a still painful left foot.
But he joined the bench after fifteen minutes, witnessing the superiority of the Danes, thanks to their speed of passing, movement and their triple trigger on the back base, composed of Simon Pytlick (9 goals), Mathias Gidsel (6 ) and Rasmus Lauge (10). The latter was particularly badly hurt in the second half.
Overwhelmed at the start of the match
The Blues were overwhelmed from the start of the match before gradually rectifying the situation. In defense and attack, led by Nedim Remili (5 goals at the break, 6 in total) and effective relays, like Elohim Prandi (3/3), in place of Nikola Karabatic, or Valentin Door, come opportunely ” to close “on his wing, to cause a Danish force passage (28th).
Just behind at the break (15-16), returned to height at the restart (16-16), they gave in around the 45th minute, conceding five goals to score only two and find themselves trailing 30-26 at the start. 53rd minute.
While Danish incumbent goalkeeper Niklas Landin, the reigning double best player in the world, was expected at the turn, it was his replacement, Kevin Moller, who stood out in the “money time”.
The guards pass by
The goalkeeper showered the last hopes of French victory by making his only three saves in the last ten minutes, including one on a shot from Yannis Lenne (27-30, 55th) then another in front of Melvyn Richardson on penalty (29-32, 58th). Opposite, the French goalkeepers (4/25 for Vincent Gérard, 3/16 for Rémi Desbonnet) never knew how to find the parade against the Danish gunners.
Guillaume Gille’s team, decimated by injuries before the tournament (seven withdrawals) then during, with a featherless left-back position throughout the final phase, will have to wait at least another year to find gold. Appointment is made for Euro-2024.
He’s back on top. By winning his tenth Australian Open on Sunday January 29 in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic will once again be world number one in tennis on Monday. Above all, he equals the record of 22 Grand Slam titles held by Rafael Nadal.
The 35-year-old Serb beat Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5) in the final. The latter will become 3 againe Monday, behind Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz who was absent in Melbourne due to injury. Once the victory was assured on a final fault of his opponent, Djokovic went up to his box to kiss his team including his coach Goran Ivanisevic and his mother Dijana and collapsed there in tears.
Dominating the whole match, Novak Djokovic did not seem at all bothered by his thigh injury. He also played for the first time in the tournament without his huge bandage. Like Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros, he has never lost in the final in Melbourne where he now holds the record of ten titles.
A victorious return
Expelled from Australia last year before the start of the tournament, Novak Djokovic could only observe, powerless, the comeback of Rafael Nadal who had taken a step ahead in the race for Grand Slam titles with a 21st major title (20 for Djokovic and Federer). A few months later, the Spaniard pushed his advantage at Roland-Garros.
Winner then at Wimbledon but banned from entering the United States for the US Open, the Serb therefore had to wait for the Australian Major to come back up to Rafael Nadal on Sunday. These impossibilities to play and the absence of points distributed at Wimbledon made him lose his place of number 1 last year.
He recovered it on Sunday and will begin his 374th week on Monday at the top of the world hierarchy, a new record. Since 2021, he has also held the record for the number of seasons finished in number 1. For his part, Stefanos Tsitsipas was playing his second Grand Slam final after Roland-Garros in 2021 where he had already been beaten by Djokovic, but in five rounds and after winning the first two.
End of reign? Certainly. Game over ? This is an other story. By presenting his resignation to the steering committee of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) meeting on Friday January 27 in Marcoussis (Essonne), its president Bernard Laporte only consented to the inevitable. His position had been increasingly untenable since his conviction on December 13, 2022 to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of €75,000, in particular for passive corruption, influence peddling and illegal taking of interests.
The Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, had immediately called for her resignation, very quickly followed by the National Rugby League (LNR), the governing body of professional clubs, considering that it was necessary “bringing peace to French rugby through the organization by the FFR of new elections”. By negotiating his “withdrawal” pending his appeal, Bernard Laporte refused to abdicate, counting on the consent of the clubs called upon to validate by a vote the name of his temporary replacement, the vice-president of the FFR Patrick Bush. The result of the ballot fell Thursday, January 26, a real slap in the face for an already staggering president. With more than 90% turnout, 51.06% of voters rejected the proposal.
An untenable situation
Bernard Laporte could only draw the consequences and lower his head to the exit. Except that the page is not quite turned. Because the sequel that the steering committee, sovereign in the matter, seeks to write, reflects the divisions that still agitate the “big family” of rugby. The statutes of the FFR offered two possible solutions. Or under the terms of article 21, the appointment of an interim president, then the convening next June of a general meeting of the FFR to elect a new president within the current steering committee. That is, under the terms of article 15, a resignation of the whole of the steering committee causing within six weeks the organization of new elections more widely open.
At the end of the meeting at the start of which she had invited herself on Friday morning, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra hastened to ask these elements, however affirming her preferences: ” VSwas somewhere my advisory role (…) I told them that the path which seemed to me the clearest, the clearest, the most legitimate and also the fastest, because we all want this crisis to be able to go to its end. term and be resolved quickly now, was the way for a resignation from the steering committee. » This solution was also called for by the opposition to Bernard Laporte, the Ovale ensemble collective led by the president of the Ile-de-France Regional League Florian Grill, a candidate who failed by a small amount in the last federal elections (49% compared to 51% at Bernard Laporte in 2020).
The federal opposition also resigns
But the steering committee, where 40 members sit, including 9 from the opposition, did not choose this path, favoring the appointment of an interim president and the convening in Lille at the end of June-beginning of July of an elective general assembly. evoking a “putsch”the opposition immediately decided to resign. “We cannot condone this hold-upgot carried away Florian Grill. By resigning, we put them before their responsibilities. We asked the clubs for their opinion and, today, we come to tell them that their opinion is useless. All that is not serious, all that is not responsible. It’s rude to the clubs. It’s serious. » At the start of the afternoon, the two representatives of the national rugby league (LNR) on the steering committee, its president René Bouscatel and the president of the Toulousain stadium, Didier Lacroix, resigned in turn.
French rugby therefore ends the week without a president, but still in crisis. Seven months before the World Cup, the picture may be less tarnished, but still very blurry. The XV of France is preparing to begin (Sunday February 5 against Italy) in this climate a Tournament of the Six Nations decisive for its confidence before the global deadline. Coach Fabien Galthié, long very close to Bernard Laporte, has applied himself for months to staying away from current debates, keeping the XV of France in his bubble, in his unalterable project.
This is also the only anchor of the scattered oval. Not touch the XV of France, swear all the protagonists of the current soap opera. That the Blues continue to win, shared hope. For the rest, it’s still open scrum. Which is not quite the best representation of the famous “French flair”.
La Croix: Why do French players fail to reach the last four of a Grand Slam tournament?
Patrice Hagelaeur: On the men’s side, for a few years, we simply haven’t had players who are at the level to win Grand Slams. Since the Tsonga-Gasquet-Monfils generation, the French reservoir has fluctuated around 40e place in the ATP ranking, which explains why we do not find French players in the last four of a Grand Slam, or even in the round of 16.
Some players like Lucas Pouille or Ugo Humbert had to deal with certain injuries, even though they showed great promise. They are far from competing with the top 10 in the world. France is in a dip, but it will be interesting to scrutinize the next generation. Very young players like Luca Van Assche (18) or Gabriel Debru (17) have real potential.
In women, the problem is a little different. Caroline Garcia is world number four, and we feel that the problem is elsewhere.
In mental preparation in particular?
pH: All coaches will tell you the same thing: you play with your body, your technique and your physique. These are the necessary basics. But all that is insufficient if you don’t have the mind and the “heart”. If you are unable to control your emotions, you cannot win. We play to win, not not to lose. When we start to tense up, to feel frustrated, doubt sets in, confidence disappears. It makes the difference.
During his press conference after his loss at the Australian Open (in the round of 16, Monday January 23, editor’s note), Caroline Garcia herself admitted not having a good handle on her feelings. Yet she has the tennis to win a Grand Slam. All of this is working. It is still necessary that the players choose the right people to accompany them. This question is not new. Yannick Noah already had a mental trainer in addition to valuable support from Arthur Ashe, who really helped him become aware of the issues.
We have often spoken of the “golden generation” in French tennis, but none has converted hopes. Do we tend to see ourselves as “too handsome” in France?
pH: I think that we have above all tended to be too severe with this generation of players who are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils or Gilles Simon. In twenty years, or 80 Grand Slam tournaments, more than three quarters have been won by three men: Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. The French arrived at the peak of their career at a time when the unbeatable dominated. Same for women with Serena Williams. Which did not prevent Marion Bartoli, or before her Amélie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce, from winning.
I believe that the French public loved this generation enormously, to the point of being too demanding. In 2014, when France lost the Davis Cup against Switzerland, the players were taken down and the media and popular judgment was really harsh. It is quickly forgotten that they lost to Roger Federer, who was then world number two, and Stanislas Wawrinka, who was number four. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
When France lost the Football World Cup against Argentina, the players were welcomed as heroes, but the tennis players weren’t. It’s a bit hard.
A country coeven Spain has fewer licensees than France. Still, the Spaniards have won more than 20 Grand Slam titles. Is the French formation failing?
pH: At the start, we had a lot of academies in France with a large pool of players who combined studies, training, medical follow-up, and who went to competition every week. But for obscure political reasons, this completely crumbled in the 2000s.
However, destroying a well-functioning system is much faster than rebuilding one. Today, apart from Insep (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) and some academies in the south of France, it is complicated for some parents to offer their children who dream of becoming champions adequate training, close to home.
You mention Spain. Among our neighbours, the mental contribution we were talking about earlier is done via former great players who participate fully in the emergence of new talents. Current world number one Carlos Alcaraz plays under former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. This transmission must also exist in France.
It’s a paradox because tennis is an individual sport, but I’m convinced that the victory of a French player in the Grand Slam will go through collective cohesion.
On August 7, 2021, the Blues won, in Tokyo, the first Olympic title in their history against Russia. A coronation followed by a new victory for the teammates of Earvin Ngapeth, last summer, in the League of Nations against the United States. Never had the France team, whose record remained blank for sixty-nine years, from its first official match in 1946 until its first title in 2015, appeared so strong.
Uninhibited, the Blues will aim for a new title at the Paris Olympics. A performance that only the USSR (in 1964 and 1968) and the United States (in 1984 and 1988) have achieved so far. “This golden generation is quite capable of achieving this feat”, says Éric Tanguy, president of the French Volleyball Federation (FFVB).
Spectacular progress of the women’s volleyball team
During this time, the French women’s team began a spectacular progression, going from 55e place, in 2015, at the 20e place today in the international ranking. After reaching the quarter-finals of the 2021 European Championship in Serbia, the team coached by Belgian Émile Rousseaux won its first major title in 2022, in the European League of Nations.
These performances did not go unnoticed in the major European teams. Imitating Christina Bauer, who was for a long time the only Frenchwoman to play abroad, Héléna Cazaute, the captain of Les Bleues, Lucille Gicquel or Amandha Sylves recently exported their talent to the – very tough – Italian championship.
The successes of the national selections gave a serious boost to the clubs, which recorded a “real boom in licensees, around 40%”, observes Yves Bouget, the president of the National Volleyball League (LNV). But this influx caught the leaders off guard: “We suffer, like all indoor sports, from a very worrying shortage of equipment for the future and the absence of an infrastructure construction plan since the end of the 1960s”, denounces Yves Bouget.
The creation of new teams is hampered by the lack of gymnasiums, while the most coveted formations resign themselves to limiting their number of licensees. “Our structures have been saturated for a long time. We were already refusing people before the gold medal at the Olympics”, assures Gilles Gosselin, manager of the Saint-Nazaire club. The ambitious promoted from Ligue A, who will reopen a training center next season, discusses with the municipality“which is sensitive to this problem, but which must also carry out other projects, in particular finding land to build housing”.
An ever-increasing crowd during elite matches
This renewed attractiveness is also reflected in the level of crowds in the stands, during elite matches. Tours Volley-Ball (TVB) had 175,000 spectators last season, while Saint-Nazaire is cultivating a historic local enthusiasm for volleyball: “Since we have returned to the elite, our Sports Palace has been constantly full, rejoices Gilles Gosselin. This fervor is not new. When we were relegated in 3e division, we already had an attendance higher than the average for League A clubs.
On Monday January 16, 2023, the girls of the Michelet college volleyball team, in Tours (Indre-et-Loire), are training for the French UNSS championship. / Cyril Chigot for La Croix
Yves Bouget regrets that this dynamic has been hit hard by the health crisis. “It delayed the work we were doing on our business model, which is to make volleyball a spectator sport. » The former president of TVB, elected head of the LNV in December 2020, is working to find new outlets for professional clubs, whose budgets remain much lower than those of basketball and handball.
To do this, the French leaders had imagined integrating into League A – for two seasons – the Chinese team, 17e in the world rankings, which would have taken up residence in a French city in order to prepare for the 2024 Olympics. The project was dismissed last summer by the Ministry of Sports: “It’s a shame because the Chinese had agreed to invest 8 million euros over four years,” regrets Yves Bouget. A windfall of 2 million euros per year, higher than the current budget of the LNV. “We would have had substantial resources for real development. »
Inspired by the change made fifteen years earlier by professional handball, the LNV encourages its members to turn to private funding: “We must no longer content ourselves with chasing public subsidies”, pleads its president. A “Club License”, a new professional label, is being created to encourage clubs to structure themselves, develop their networks of partners and “look more and more like companies and no longer like sports clubs”.
Media exposure, the clubs’ new hobbyhorse
A necessary policy, according to Daniel Braun, president of the Mulhouse club, one of the biggest budgets (2.2 million euros) in the women’s League A: “With the economic and energy crisis, we should have no illusions, communities are not going to increase their participation in the operation of professional clubs. »
To find new partners, the LNV has made media exposure its new hobbyhorse. The youtuber “Le volleyeur français” has thus joined the lnvtv.com website, the streaming channel launched by the League. “When I started my term, we had 6,000 subscribers. We now have 35,000. rejoices Yves Bouget, who has reached an agreement with BeIN Sports for the broadcast of the best poster of each day of the championship every Friday evening since September 30, 2022.
“This is a big step forward, no doubt favored by the Olympics. It’s been a few years since we were on premium TV. If volleyball isn’t televised, we won’t move forward.” says Pascal Foussard, manager of TVB, leader of Ligue A. Among women, the media of the Altice group broadcast, live and unencrypted, the French championship on the Twitch channel of RMC Sport and on the antennas of BFM Regions.
The arrival of these broadcasters does not directly fill the coffers of the clubs, contrary to what is practiced in football or rugby, which have made television rights the bedrock of their economic model. “But it will make it easier to find new sponsors. A player who wants to invest will instantly find himself with visibility around a strong brand,” claims Yves Bouget. Two large companies are in advanced discussions with the LNV to associate their name with the men’s and women’s A Leagues. The future of tricolor volleyball is played, more than ever, on the economic ground.
The number of licensees on the rise
Before the Covid-19 crisis, the French Volleyball Federation listed 135,000 licensees registered in the 1,800 clubs in France. Last season, that number was 182,800, including 99,000 men and 83,000 women.
In January 2023, 160,000 people have already subscribed to a license, 20% more than the same period last year. Girls represent 57% of license holders up to the age of 18.
The International Volleyball Federation unveiled in November the calendar and the six host cities of the group stage of the League of Nations 2023. A French city is one of them: Orléans (Loiret) will host a group including France, Brazil and Slovenia from June 20 to 25.
Frenchman Adam Siao Him Fa, 21, was crowned European figure skating champion for the first time in his career on Friday January 27 in Espoo (Finland).
France had been waiting for a continental title in the men’s category since 2011 and Florent Amodio’s gold. With a total of 267.77 points, he is ahead of the Italian Matteo Rizzo (259.92 pts) and the Swiss Lukas Britschgi (248.01 pts).
All the technical elements of his free program did not go perfectly in the first part of the choreography, but Siao Him Fa, who skated to music by Woodkid, later freed himself.
He had a comfortable lead of more than ten points after the short program on Wednesday anyway.
In the absence of the defending champion, the Russian Mark Kondratuik suspended due to the war in Ukraine, the first place seemed more accessible than ever for the native of Bordeaux, 14th at the Olympic Games last year, who answered present on Finnish ice cream.
Already champion of France this year
This European gold medal comes to reward a good season for the Frenchman, crowned in November at the Grand Prix de France in Angers as well as at the French Championships a month later.
The other tricolor engaged, Kevin Aymoz, finished at the foot of the podium (240.92 pts), as in 2019. To the music of the Gladiateur thread, the Frenchman was only able to chain two jump combinations, which earned him to lose a few points.
Arrived a few minutes before their 4 p.m. training, after their day of lessons, a small group of third-grade students from Jules-Michelet college, in Tours (Indre-et-Loire), hung the nets on the volleyball posts. The Danton multisports hall with its faded walls at the Palais des sports Robert-Grenon welcomes 25 college students several times a week, fromsixth to third, registered in the volleyball section opened ten years ago.
Today, Benoît Belliard, PE teacher at the college, has planned to separate his group. The youngest will practice their scales, while the more experienced will get into match condition under the watchful eye of Romain Lefèvre, an educator seconded by the departmental volleyball committee. For boys, this workout has a special flavor. They hope to join the girls, who have just validated their first qualification for the French championships of the UNSS (National Union of School Sport), which will take place in Mâcon (Saône-et-Loire) from March 7 to 9.
“Promoting social diversity”
All smiles, Inès does not regret having joined the section at the start of the year. “I was already in college but I didn’t play volleyball, which I discovered thanks to my girlfriends. It became my passion says the schoolgirl, who walks the floors eleven hours a week. At first, I lacked a bit of motor skills. But I quickly acquired the necessary skills. And now, I’m going to play the French inter-academic championships. »
Like other clubs (Montpellier, Sète, Nantes), Tours Volley-Ball (TVB) has made training a priority. “We are one of the first clubs in France to have hosted classes with flexible hours, which we support financially, from middle school to high school,” presents Pascal Foussard, the manager of TVB, the locomotive of tricolor volleyball.
Sitting on a bench, David Fradin, one of the two referents of the TVB, supervises the session. “This year, we wanted to increase the size of the section, from 15 to 25 students, and increase the volume of training, exposes the sports educator. It is a way of attracting young people from outside and promoting social diversity in this college with an unflattering reputation. »
“I joined the section this year. It’s demanding because I have to get up earlier in the morning to catch my traintestifies Marley, a fourth-grade student living in the neighboring town of Ballan-Miré. But I like it and my school results are better than before. » He hopes that the section will be a springboard to the training center and, why not, to a professional destiny like his idols, the international Earvin Ngapeth or Aboubacar Dramé Neto, the darling of the Touraine public.
The TVB forced to refuse members
This sector has, according to David Fradin, been “salutary for many young people in difficulty”. Gabriel Coulibaly, 18, found his way thanks to this section which he attended in 2017, from sixth to third. Failing at school, the young man stopped his schooling along the way, engaging in civic service at the Sports Union for Primary Education (USEP). He will pass the diplomas next year to become a sports educator.
In the popular district of the Palais des Sports, the TVB thus fully plays its role as a social player in the Touraine metropolis. The club’s educators work in the surrounding primary schools, supporting teachers in discovering this sport, which is unfailingly associated with the city’s identity. “We have this incredible chance to be a club in the city center and to be served by the tramway. This is why we have a large influx of children and young people who easily come to us,” rejoices Pascal Foussard.
The victory of the Blues at the Tokyo Olympics has consolidated the attractiveness of the club, which now has 400 licensees, from “baby volleyball” to seniors. But for two years, limited by its capacity, the TVB was forced to “reluctantly turn down a hundred people,” he regrets. To adapt to the high demand, the club carried out an extension project of the Sports Palace, abandoned for lack of public subsidies.
The Blues are in the last four of the Handball World Cup. Yes, once more, once more. The eleventh since the beginning of the century, out of twelve editions of the competition, already won six times by the French. Their only absence dates back to ten years, in 2013 in Spain, where they lost in the quarter against the Croats (23-30). Healthy habit therefore, and performance not to be minimised. Because it was not written in advance, this scenario for the moment ideal punctuated by seven victories in as many matches.
The Blues have indeed started the World Cup with a formation decimated by injuries, and not the least. From left-back Timothey N’Guessan (broken hand) to winger Hugo Descat (knee surgery) to goalkeeper Wesley Pardin (ankle), seven players, the equivalent of an entire team, remained on the floor. And the ordeal began with two other leaders forced to wait on the bench: captain Luka Karabatic, struggling with back pain, and right-back Valentin Porte still embarrassed on the side of his thigh muscles.
The Thibaud Briet revelation
The Blues were certainly not the only ones to experience such a traffic jam in the infirmary, the infernal cadences imposed on the players remaining the fundamental problem that everyone sees without ever solving it. But it was still a lot to go on a campaign with high hearts, even if the ambition did not completely desert the French camp. In fact, they have adapted, these Blues, and even to the other bad surprises punctuating their career, from the muscle contracture in the abdominal muscles which deprived the star in the making Dika Mem of five games, to the contusion on the left foot of Nikola Karabatic which embarrasses still the valiant 38-year-old veteran.
It is so made, this French handball team, that if a head is missing, another comes out of the shadows opportunely. Thus Thibaud Briet, 23 years old, and a winning mind. The young Normand had taken advantage of the cascade of packages caused by the Covid-19 during Euro 2022 to discover the France group. He had obviously taken good bearings. In the first phase of the World Cup, the good giant – 2.05m, the tallest player in the history of the Blues – put himself forward, a revelation of the tournament in attack (third best blue scorer) as well as in defense where its versatility is invaluable. “Being a Swiss army knife is perfect for me”, laughs the guy. Out of its box like a handsome devil. “It’s one of the fastest arrivals in recent years”welcomes the coach of the Blues, Guillaume Gille.
In handball as in other collective disciplines, there are more and more young people in a hurry that the masters of playing no longer hesitate to throw into the deep end. “With the international successes of the Blues, a requirement for work has gradually imposed itself in the training centers and the hope centersexplains Daniel Costantini, coach of the national team from 1985 to 2001. Confidence too, and excellent players emerge from the twenties. Before, you had to wait much longer to bring them to the world level. »
The stratospheric performance of Rémi Desbonnet
Thibaud Briet is only the latest in a long series. But he too injured his hand, and he was not part of the party in the quarter-final against Germany on Wednesday January 25. The Blues struggled for almost forty minutes, before taking off to win (35-28). And in the case shone with a thousand lights the goalkeeper of the Blues. The usual owner, Vincent Gérard? What not. After eighteen minutes of figuration (no stoppage), the latter was replaced by the second doorman, Rémi Desbonnet. At 30, in blue for less than a year and completely unknown to the general public, the Montpellier player treated himself to a dream evening, discouraging the German gunners with a stratospheric performance (14 saves on 30 shots). A new head for the Blue Hydra.
Another must still grow: Elohim Prandi, who is struggling to show himself on this World Cup. At 24, back in blue after being stabbed in the streets of Paris before the Euro last year, the left-back of PSG does not have the performance he shows with his club. He still has to really free himself, and quickly if possible. Because it is the Swedes at home who come forward on Friday January 27. The same ones who banned the Blues from the 2021 World Cup final (26-32 defeat) and that of Euro 2022 (33-34). Forward for a new feat?
The Bruno Martini shock
At the announcement of the news, the Blues remained focused on their quarter-final the same evening, but it is an understatement to say that it stunned them: the former goalkeeper, double world champion Bruno Martini, president of the National Handball League (NHL), received a one-year suspended prison sentence and a €2,500 fine for “bribery of minors” and “recording of child pornography images”.
Under investigation since 2020 after the complaint of a 13-year-old, he had been placed in police custody two days earlier. The sanction was validated by the Paris court after appearance on prior admission of guilt. Even before the outcome, the leaders of the NHL, in connection with the French Handball Federation, had called Bruno Martini, 52, to resign. A general meeting to replace him is scheduled for March 7. The federation has also decided to open disciplinary proceedings against him.
The least that can be said is that the new legal incident does not come at the best time. Placed in police custody for almost nine hours on Tuesday January 24, as part of an investigation for aggravated tax fraud laundering opened in August 2020 by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), Bernard Laporte certainly emerged free, without charge or prosecution. , but his hearing came in full vote of the 1,940 oval clubs. The latter must endorse by an electronic ballot ending Thursday January 26 at noon the candidacy of Patrick Buisson, the current vice-president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) in charge of the amateur world, proposed by Bernard Laporte to take his place. at the head of the FFR during its withdrawal.
So here is Bernard Laporte, president ordered to leave his post after his conviction on December 13, 2022 to two years in prison suspended and a fine of €75,000, in particular for passive corruption, influence peddling and illegal taking of interests – conviction which he appealed – again overwhelmed by a procedure, unrelated to his previous troubles but which risks affecting the ballot. “It is perfectly scandalous that the prosecution chose the date of Patrick Buisson’s election to set that of the hearing and that the disclosure of this hearing was made the same day”thundered one of his lawyers, Mr.e Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, lambasting “a relentlessness of the PNF”.
Very divided clubs
The club vote promises to be extremely tight. Patrick Buisson, before the ballot, applied himself to explaining his difference in the mode “He is him and I am me”. “I will not be Bernard Laporte’s potiche”he swore to Figaro. “Let’s imagine that the yes wins, I will then be deputy president, and he is not a nominee”he assured the World. Many voters, however, have the impression of being invited to a referendum for or against Bernard Laporte.
Except that the personality of the president and his legal troubles are not the only elements that concern the clubs. “All this mess doesn’t change much in our daily lives, and in terms of rugby’s image, I’m not sure it’s really the right time, seven months before the World Cup in France, to throw the baby out with the bathwater and embark on a long election campaign”loose, on condition of anonymity, an amateur club president from the South West.
Patrick Buisson plays on this concern, arguing “necessary stability” that he represents. On the contrary, the opposition led by the collective Ovale ensemble and embodied by Florian Grill, candidate defeated by nothing for the presidency of the FFR in 2020 (49% against 51%), believes that it is urgent to turn the page Laporte to approach the World Cup with a renovated FFR. Both parties said they were confident before the start of the ballot. Since then, they keep silent and therefore do not comment on the latest developments concerning Bernard Laporte.
Under ministerial pressure
Several scenarios are possible depending on the results. If the candidacy of Patrick Buisson is validated, the opposition has already announced that it would accept it. On the other hand, it demands, in the event of a “no”, the rapid organization of new federal elections. Which is not an obligation. The statutes of the FFR indeed offer Bernard Laporte and the federal steering committee the possibility of proposing a new name for a new vote, and even of repeating the operation until acceptance by the clubs. Can the oval allow such a waltz-hesitation?
The prospect does not delight Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. The Minister of Sports was also invited to the steering committee which must debrief the vote the day after the election, Friday January 27. “I have no doubt that the steering committee will draw conclusions responsibly when it comes to analyzing this consultation, both the rate of participation, the response given and the way in which it took place”, she said at the end of last week. A way to put pressure on the body, for a minister who has already weighed in with all her weight in favor of the withdrawal of Bernard Laporte. The hypothesis of new elections would not displease him.
Vincent Chaudel, sports economist, co-founder of the firm In & Sport and the Observatory of sport business
“The political dimension of sport is obviously important. The Pierre de Coubertin spirit resided in taking advantage of sport so that there were clashes between countries, but peaceful clashes. Hence the principle of the Olympic truce which dates back to the Greeks. During the ancient Olympics, there was no war. The idea was to say “sport must allow confrontation between nations, according to rules”. Suddenly, the strength of sport is to allow a match between the United States and Iran, as was the case during the last FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It is to see Palestinians confronting Israelis. This is where the power of sport lies.
I am not in favor of a boycott of Russian athletes, as it stands. Even if I understand the state of mind at the moment and the importance of the struggle that the Ukrainians are waging against the Russian invader, as well as all the support of European countries for Ukraine, I think that depriving yourself of the lever of sport is not a good idea. On the other hand, I think that the sanction which had been imposed on Russia, at the Tokyo Games, in connection with state doping, was the right one. The Russian athletes had been able to compete, but without the honors given to Russia, that is to say without the flag and the anthems. In my opinion, this was the right position, because it puts the spotlight on a situation that is out of the ordinary. The idea is not to honor Russia, but without depriving the athletes who, on the whole, have nothing to do with it.
We must be aware of one thing: it is not because we are at war that there is no longer any diplomacy. We must continue to have contacts, and in particular positive contacts. In this area, sport can generate magnificent images, the space of a competition, through hugs or gestures of humanity that will thwart other images to which we are unfortunately accustomed since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict. Shouldn’t you go to Berlin for the 1936 Games? Jesse Owens proved that it is.
Finally, in the world unfortunately, there are other conflicts. Why would the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the only real decision-maker on whether or not to welcome Russian athletes, take a position for this conflict and not for all the others present in the world? In the eyes of all, we would be explaining that the African dead or the Asian dead everywhere in the world would be less important than the Ukrainian dead. It is a European prism, and it is dangerous. »
► “We are not asking the same for other countries at war”
Pascal Boniface, geopolitical scientist and founder of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris)
“President Zelensky is, as always, in communication. It is addressed to Emmanuel Macron and not to Tony Estanguet (president of the organizing committee of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, editor’s note)or Thomas Bach (IOC President, Editor’s note). But the one who can really answer him is Thomas Bach, surrounded by his board of directors.
By addressing the French president, he takes care of his communication with his own population. In Ukraine, for sure, some will think that it was Emmanuel Macron who refused his request and it will serve him at some point. But on the form, it obviously has no chance of being implemented. On this question, it is difficult to object to Zelensky that diplomatic channels should be maintained, because no one dares to tell him anything. He is the “courageous” president of a martyred country. We can therefore adhere or not to his demands, but it is impossible in the media to say that his demands are excessive, even when they are.
On the merits now, the request in itself is not legitimate. Russian athletes are not responsible for what their leader does. Putin’s regime is different from the Russian people. In 2003, no boycott had been decided for the Athens Games the following year, for the Americans and the British, who had nevertheless declared war in Iraq. The Games were even awarded to London some time later. Of course, Vladimir Putin committed an assault. Yes, it is against all Olympic principles. Yes, maybe some athletes have distinguished themselves by openly supporting their head of state in aggressive language, but it would be deeply unfair to Russian athletes, as a whole, to decide to ban them.
We did not ask for the exclusion of Ethiopia when it committed a massacre in Tigray or of Rwanda for what the M23 is doing in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. You have to be vigilant with this very European-centric eye. When the Russian football team was excluded from the competitions, the decision was taken by UEFA and not by Fifa which, I think, would have probably taken another decision. It is clear that there is often a difference in judgment between Westerners and the rest of the world.
Finally, in a very practical way, such a decision, if it were to happen, would in any case be completely premature at this stage. We are a year and a half away from the 2024 Paris Games and given the way events have turned out since the beginning of the conflict, who can say today, with certainty, where we will be in a few months? »