Swimming: at the Budapest Worlds, the French team pulls its head out of the water

Blue swimming again tells great stories. With an enterprising little prince of just 20 years old, a dashing knight barely taller, and a few squires with emerging or persevering talent. It hadn’t happened for a long time. About ten years. The page seems to have turned after the dark period framed by disillusionment and internal settling of accounts at the Rio Games in 2016 and the rickety harvest of the Tokyo Games last year (a single medal, in silver, for Florent Manaudou ).

Encouraging results

With eight medals, including two gold, the Blues 2022 finished the world championships in the Budapest basin this Saturday, June 25, ranking just behind the 2013 winners (nine medals, including four gold). But with 19 finals in total, including 16 individually, they equaled the record of the 2011 Worlds in Shanghai.

“We can congratulate ourselves on this, but we must know how to keep reason, comments Denis Auguin, the team leader of the Blues. Firstly because these championships only showed a relatively modest level, with many swimmers absent in this post-Olympic year, then because we sometimes win medals from nothing, the races always tipping on the right side for us, which will not always happen. So, more than the medals, I especially remember the ability of our swimmers to go fast when it counts, their progress and their desire. It is really encouraging. »

A star is born

The trigger for this dynamic is called Léon Marchand, who propelled himself to the top twice, in gold in the 400 and 200 m medley. Quite a number for the Toulousain who has been away for ten months to refine his emerging excellence in the United States, with coach Bob Bowman, the mentor of the giant Michael Phelps, the most successful champion in Olympic history (23 times in gold between 2004 and 2016). The man is good advice, no doubt, especially on the management of repeated races. Léon Marchand also won silver in the 200m butterfly. The international federation has, suddenly, awarded him the title of best swimmer of the Worlds.

A star is born, no doubt, but she is not the only one in the blue sky. At 23, Maxime Grousset, at the foot of the 100m freestyle podium in Tokyo, won silver this time, before bronze in the 50m freestyle. Third in the 50m backstroke, the young Analia Pigrée, 20, also confirmed that a new generation had to be reckoned with. But not only.

Marie Wattel, 25, vice-world champion in the 100m butterfly, and especially Mélanie Henique, 29, silver in the 50m butterfly eleven years after her first world podium in 2011 (bronze), prove “that a real group has been formed, a collective that benefits from the energy of young people and the experience of managersemphasizes Denis Auguin. Even Florent Manaudou, if he did not shine in this year of transition for him (eliminated in the semi-finals, editor’s note), perfectly played his role as captain”.

Refine the relays again

Accentuating the momentum started is obviously the objective for the coming months, with the Paris 2024 Games in sight already in everyone’s mind. These Worlds validate the work accomplished, in particular by Jacco Verhaeren, the Dutch technician appointed director of the French teams last summer. “We know that the base is sound, that the quality is there, but there is no question of falling into euphoriawarns Julien Issoulié, the national technical director of the French Federation. 80% of the team is there, but young talents can still integrate it. In particular, we must increase the density of our relays, so as not to have the best swim in all the races. And also learn to better manage the sequence of events. »

The international calendar, constantly upset since the pandemic, does not make things easier. In August, the European Championships are already looming in Rome. Then will come in July 2023 the Worlds in Fukuoka (Japan) postponed for a year and cause the delay of the following Worlds in Qatar at the beginning of 2024, therefore before the Games. “It will not be the most important for us, except to qualify our relaysannounces Julien Issoulié. The management of the next two seasons remains a real challenge, and everyone in the team is aware of it: it will swim much faster in Paris, and what we have done there is only the beginning. »


The contribution of Jacco Verhaeren, the Dutch expert

To no longer experience the parochial quarrels so frequent in French swimming, the management of the French teams was entrusted in June 2021 to the Dutch expert Jacco Verhaeren, 53, craftsman for years of the excellence of Australian swimming. . “He brings us serenity in decision-making, with a very neutral and very pragmatic look at French swimming.explains the DTN Julien Issoulié. He assessed our system and assured us that we did not have to feel very below the flagship countries. This allows us to perpetuate certain parameters and focus on what remains to be improved. In particular teamwork, which will have to deal with increasing pressure until the Paris Games. »



Tennis: the very financial reform of the ATP world circuit

He was indeed there, this Monday, June 20, for his first training balls on the English lawn. Rafael Nadal intends to play the Wimbledon tournament from June 27, which he has not won since 2010, and his painful left foot is asked to be silent. The Mallorcan is far from done with tennis. On the courts as well as outside, as he has just proved by playing the VRP of the “One Vision” plan of the ATP, the association which organizes the world circuit.

The reform presented last week by the boss of the instance, Andrea Gaudenzi, did not really make the headlines. Yet she wants to be ” revolutionary “. It must be said that the Italian has been fine-tuning it almost since his arrival at the helm of the ATP at the start of 2020. Two years of discussions turned upside down by the pandemic, but which finally lead to a strategy shaping the future of the circuit. And obviously, the priority is financial.

More profits for more players

Because the observation is bitter. According to the ATP, tennis can boast of one billion fans on the planet and thus claim fourth place in terms of popularity (after football, basketball and cricket). Except that the little yellow ball points far away in terms of the income generated by its show. Globally, it crunches only 1.3% of the 52 billion dollars in revenue from the media, when football devours 40.6%, and basketball 8.6%. In other words: the product is poorly displayed and poorly sold.

The ATP’s solution is therefore to ensure that the tournaments it organises, mainly the Masters 1000, are upgraded. To do this, they will be longer (12 days rather than 8) and will welcome more players. (96 rather than 56). The American tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami are already in this format. They will be joined by Madrid, Rome and Shanghai in 2023, by the Canadian Masters and Cincinnati in 2025. Only the Bercy and Monte Carlo tournaments remain concentrated over 8 days, their infrastructures not allowing an extension for the moment.

In addition to this growing system, there is a desire for transparency in tournament costs, allowing real revenue sharing with players. At the same time, the ATP promises a 35% increase in bonuses by 2025, and a 37% increase in bonuses distributed at the end of the year to 30 and no longer 12 players. All the measures must ultimately benefit more than 140 players, while less than a hundred really share the cake today. “As a result, they welcome the reform rather well, because more of them will be able to afford solid coaching allowing them to recover better, to better manage their season, underlines Lionel Maltese, lecturer at Aix-Marseille University and consultant for the Open 13 Provence, ATP 250 tournament. On the other hand, smaller tournaments will no doubt find it even more difficult than before to land big headliners. »

The utopia of unitary governance

The ATP certainly evokes a solidarity redistribution for the smallest tournaments through its subsidiary ATP Médias which must collect the new exploitation and broadcasting rights, but for the ATP 500 competitions (11 tournaments) and ATP 250 (40 tournaments), guaranteeing a solid board will be a headache, with players who are truly untouchable. “The black hole of the reform is that it does not offer flexibility on points in the ATP ranking either, continues Lionel Maltese. If we credited certain tournaments like Marseille or Metz with 300 points for example, instead of 250, the leeway to seduce players with something other than the financial aspect would be interesting. There should be more proportionality in the points rather than these rigid levels, 1,000, 500, 250.

The reform is not more talkative on other less striking and stumbling points. What about the physical and mental health of the players, yet more and more undermined? The debate on the duration of the matches, however still pregnant between the proponents of the end of the matches in five sets and the defenders of the tradition, is dodged. The ATP first formulates what to inflate its business, before a second phase of its plan which pursues the chimera of a unitary governance. Shared today between the ATP, the WTA in charge of the women’s circuit, the International Federation, and the four organizers of the Grand Slam, it is hue and dia, as shown by the debate on the participation of the Russian champions (read opposite). The collective strategy is still in limbo. “There is still a lot of work to do,” recognizes the ATP plan. Indeed.


Wimbledon, without Russians and without points

The English tournament remained firm on the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians from its garden. The ATP and the WTA have therefore decided that no points will be awarded during the fortnight. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has made the same arrangement for the junior and wheelchair events. Many players are annoyed by the measure, regretting coming to almost play “an exhibition”. The debate is decided differently by the US Open: the American Federation (USTA) organizer accepts Russians and Belarusians, who will line up under a neutral flag from August 29th.



Chess: at 18, Alireza Firouzja, future world number one?

Her favorite French word? ” Tremendous. » Perhaps because it is also the one he has been addressed to most often since his arrival three years ago. Kylian Mbappé in football or Carlos Alcaraz in tennis, these are the heights to climb to if we want to place Alireza Firouzja at the first non-lover of chess.

From the age of 12, he won the Iranian championship, where he was born and raised. Then he becomes the youngest player to reach the Everest of 2,800 points in the world rankings, propelling him to second place at 18 years old. He could toast an additional stage by joining the world championship, for which the so-called “Candidates” qualifying tournament begins Friday June 17 in Madrid (Spain) and runs until July 5.

“He’s the future world number one”, boasts Jean-Pierre Gorges, mayor (DVD) of Chartres and occasional wood pusher, who hosted the ” phenomenon “ in Eure-et-Loir on the recommendation of the former president of the French Chess Federation, Bachar Kouatly. Because if Iran is one of these countries of chess culture – where the thousand-year-old game has left traces of its transit from its Asian cradle to the West – its government restricts the young Firouzja, preventing him in particular from meeting players Israelis at official parties. His parents and his brother, against whom he moved his first pieces at 8 years old, will accompany his departure.

“A fiery player”

France and the quiet streets of Chartres finally receive their endorsement. Yet the city club “didn’t have the right structure” and did not appear “not even in the elite”, recognizes François Gilles, its president. Approaching the prefecture for naturalization, convincing the city’s partners to invest in the most expensive training equipment, enrolling them in tournaments: a hard core then set about integrating the Firouzja.

“Le Jeu de la Dame”, the series that encourages diversity in chess clubs

The opportunity for Emmanuel Platon, licensed at “C’Chartres Échecs”, to closely observe the young hopeful by refereeing an online competition at home. “It was phenomenal,” repeats the fifty-year-old. We attempt a parallel with the spirit of play that animates the biggest names in sport. He nods: “I was struck by his mastery of time and his ability to pull off shots that no one expected. »

“Alireza is creative in the sense that he thinks outside the box to force opponents into playing difficult shots. He’s a fiery player, who complicates all matches.” also notes Kevin Bordi, who regularly comments on his games on the “Blitzstream” YouTube channel.

“The only trainer who can coach him is a computer”

Last November, the nugget gave him material for analysis, between his victory in the Grand Swiss tournament, qualifying for the Candidates, and a silver medal in the European team championship with the French team. The first of the Blues in almost ten years, won ” by himself “, laughs Maxime Lagarde, reigning French champion and teammate during the competition.

The member of the Chartres club, 28, also saw the confirmation of a gap between his generation, still trained in chess through books, and the new one, with brains modeled by computer databases. “The only trainer who has the computing power to coach him is a computer. He is the youngest player, but certainly the one who has accumulated the most online rapid games in the world. So he has seen a multitude of scenarios, and knows how to react very quickly to a very wide range of situations”, explains Jean-Pierre Gorges.

This series of seven victories in nine attempts did not go unnoticed in a discipline where a draw is the most common at a high level. To achieve this, the neo-Tricolore – he received his French papers last summer and chose not to opt for dual Franco-Iranian nationality – has built a bubble within which he borders on Stakhanovism , far from the solicitations of the press, which had already packed with Étienne Bacrot in the early 2000s, without this one succeeding in the promised career.

“Their work for his parents, and studies for his brother: Alireza’s family left everything for him, the club and the city mobilized like never before, so all of this is an immense burden for him”, understands François Gilles, who nevertheless wonders “if this lack of openness will not penalize him in the long term”.


The youngest crowned?

If he qualified against his seven competitors and then won the world long game championship next year, the queen discipline in chess, Alireza Firouzja would be the youngest winner (at 19) – after Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen (at 22) -, and the first Frenchman since Alexandre Alekhine in 1937. He would face in February 2023 the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, who judged ” unlikely “ to defend his crown “if someone other than Firouzja won (the) ‘Candidates'”. A sign that the defending champion for ten years now has no other priority than to symbolically beat the new generation.



Figure skating: Worlds in reduced mode in Montpellier

They should be the unwitting heroes of the competition. Five Ukrainian athletes, long uncertain for these world figure skating championships, which begin this Wednesday, March 23 in Montpellier, but finally announced on the ice. The skater Ivan Shmuratko, the couple Sofia Holichenko-Artem Darenskyi, and the ice dance tandem Oleksandra Nazarova-Maksym Nikitin will be greeted at length. “We plan a minute of applause in support of the Ukrainians and for peace”underlines Nathalie Péchalat, the president of the French Federation of ice sports.

→ STORY. Beijing Olympics: Papadakis and Cizeron, gold and the way

Their participation was not won, of course. If the couples, fairly soon after the start of the conflict in their country, had been able to move to Austria and Poland, Ivan Shmuratko, 20, only left kyiv, his hometown, last week. Of course, not everyone was able to train normally. The Nazarova-Nikitin dancers, originally from Kharkiv, a city devastated by the bombardments, have nevertheless developed their short program with new music. They did not see themselves skating on the same hopping partition as during the Winter Games in Beijing. With the help of Canadian musician Hugo Chouinard, who also works with French Olympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, they will offer a poignant and circumstantial evolution.

8 of 15 Beijing medalists absent

These championships in Montpellier will in fact be very marked by the international context. The decision of the ISU (International Skating Union) to exclude Russians and Belarusians from competitions affects the world event much more than other disciplines. Because the Russians are reigning world champions in three of the specialties (ladies, couple and ice dancing) and won 6 of the 15 medals awarded at the Beijing Games. If we add the packages of the world champion and American Olympic Nathan Chen, injured, and the Chinese couple Sui Wenjing-Han Cong in gold in Beijing, it is clear that these Worlds offer a singularly reduced plateau.

Party ruined? “To say that is to show a lack of respect for the athletes present, Nathalie Péchalat gets annoyed, and it also means asking a question that is not up to the moment. The sanction decided by the ISU is justified and I fully support it. The world of sport has responsibilities. It’s an anti-Russian sanction, not an anti-Russian one, you have to understand this distinction. For the rest, we will still celebrate the title of our Olympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, and this communion with their public promises good times. »

A united community

The tricolor tandem, deprived of their duel-revenge with their Russian rivals Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, reigning world champions and silver in Beijing, should win again, but also want to put this championship in context, by highlighting Ukrainian skaters. Gabriella Papadakis has been particularly dedicated to mobilizing the skating community. The Federation, for its part, asked the clubs “so that the volunteers make themselves known to welcome skaters beyond the delegation for this World Cup, and we have received many positive responses”, assures Nathalie Péchalat.

Some clubs did not wait for this call to take their part. “Last week, at the initiative of our teacher Dominique Kennerson, we organized an evening of support with exhibitions of our young skaters dressed in the colors of Ukraine, and our fundraising made it possible to fill a truck with donations which will be sent the low “says Laëtitia Barrau, president of Castres Ice Sports, Nathalie Péchalat’s debut club.

The clubs thus oscillate between solidarity and enthusiasm. Because for many, this world championship is also an opportunity to turn the page on the pandemic, which has resulted in the loss of many licensees, and to revive a discipline that has been losing momentum for too many years. “Many things need to be rethought and rebuiltconcludes Sylvain Privé, former champion of the 1990s, today technical director of the Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole club, which hosts the World Cup. A vast project that can take years. But from this angle, this World Cup can also be placed under this sign: hope. »


The Blues of ice hockey find the elite

They were thinking of the reconquest, scheduled from May 2 to 8 in Slovenia: the Blues of ice hockey had to win the world tournament of group B to go back to group A, left in 2019. The international situation decided otherwise. The exclusion of the Russian team following the conflict in Ukraine releases a place in Group A, and the Blues therefore find themselves automatically qualified for the Elite World Championship in Finland. They will be traveling to Helsinki from May 13 to 29. French leaders soberly welcomed the news: “Even if the opportunity to face the best nations in world hockey again seems encouraging, the French Ice Hockey Federation can only regret the circumstances that led to this situation and affirms its support for the Ukrainian people. »



Handball World Cup 2021: the French lose in the final against Norway

After dominating for nearly half an hour, the French handball players collapsed in the World Cup final (29 to 22) on Sunday, December 19 against Norway, but returned to France with a new medal around their neck, the seventh in the of the last eight competitions.

The opportunity to mark the history of their sport a little more was a good one for Coralie Lassource’s teammates. They had the opportunity to achieve a very rare international double in the space of just over four months, after winning Olympic gold in Tokyo by beating Russia in the final.

→ CONTEXT. Handball, the Blue in the final to enter the legend

But to imitate the Danes (1996) and the Norwegians (2008), the only ones who have achieved such a feat in the past (at the time, it was a JO-Euro double), they will unfortunately need try their luck again.

I don’t know if this will haunt us for long. I know that for the moment, we are disappointed. We expected better, especially given our first half. It’s the law of sport, there is a winner, there is a loser, that’s how it is », Commented the captain of the France team, Coralie Lassource. ” Hot, it’s complicated to be satisfied with this medal. “

Eternal regrets

The scenario of the final will leave eternal regrets to the players of Olivier Krumbholz, because they achieved an almost perfect first part of the match. Almost only, because after leading 16-10 (28th), they messed up at the end of the half: a temporary exclusion for Méline Nocandy, a lack of change for Lucie Granier, a time-out while Laura Flippes went to register the 17-10, and a big fault of Estelle Nze Minko.

These errors allowed Norway to regain hope (16-12, 30th). And the return of the locker room was fatal to the Blue who conceded a 7-2 impossible to reverse, with too many failures on the gate Silje Solberg, imperial (12 stops at 50%).

There is a lot, a lot of disappointment to come out of this tournament this way, having played 30 minutes. We are a little frustrated. We do not spit on the silver medal, but we would have liked to finish in style, we have had a good run so far “, Considers the half-center of the Blue, Grâce Zaadi.

Finishing a tournament on a setback always leaves a taste of unfinished business, when gold seemed close at hand. The defeat against Norway should not, however, make us forget the extraordinary series of the French in recent years.

Seven out of eight possible medals

Aside from the failure of the 2019 World Cup in Japan (elimination from the first round), Olivier Krumbholz’s players have always reached the last four since the Rio Games in 2016. They brought back seven medals out of eight possible, climbed six times in the final and have won three titles (World-2017, Euro-2018 and Tokyo Games in 2021).

Even the “Experts”, their male counterparts who dominated the male hand planet from 2008 to 2017, had not experienced such regularity. The gang at Nikola Karabatic had climbed “only” on six podiums, however all of them gold, in the first eight competitions of their absolute reign.

This 2021 World Cup was only supposed to be the first of three stages which should lead the French to the Olympic Games at home in 2024 (in the huge Pierre-Mauroy stadium with 27,000 seats in Lille). But despite the physical and psychological fatigue following the coronation in Tokyo, they found the resources to climb again to the final.



Handball: the Blue are really on the attack before the semi-final of the World Cup

It becomes a habit. The French handball players are again in the last four of a great competition. After a convincing demonstration against the Swedes in the quarter-finals (31-26), the Blue continued on the momentum of their triumph at the Olympic Games by inviting themselves to the semi-final of the World Cup, against Denmark, on Friday, December 17. They have reached this level for the seventh time in the last eight international competitions they have played. A real success.

→ ANALYSIS. Handball: the Blue want to impose their law on the world championship

It must be said and repeated. So the trainer Olivier Krumbholz takes care of it: “We have to do pedagogy all the time to explain that being there is not obvious. That it is an endlessly renewed, monstrous job, with exceptional girls. “ It was indeed not easy to bounce back from the Olympic title, and a decompression that emptied the team as well as the management. But the collective has been able to draw on its resources to set out again in conquest more beautiful.

Lightning counterattacks

Because on solid foundations, we can rebuild faster. And the basis of the France team is an iron defense, an ability to stifle opposing inclinations. Aptitude verified against Russia to complete the main round (33-28), or against the Swedes, physically affected and put under the snuffer in the second part of the match. To this mastery, the Blue added a new offensive ease. “We have a lot more plasticity in defense than in attack, we are known for that. But we are working tactically to better oil the suits in front, and a click occurred in the middle of the Olympic tournament. The end of the competition was more successful, and we remain in this dynamic at this World Cup. We show more fluidity in attack, on collective movements that we repeat often. “

The players benefit in particular from their physical excellence to offer themselves very fast lifts of the ball. As soon as the latter is recovered, a blue wave unfolds, the ball flies from hand to hand until, in a few seconds, an opening solution is found on the opposing goal. “We paid particular attention to this kind of counter-attack, because we had identified a deficiency in this area during the Games., continues the coach. Now it is a weapon that we have mastered. “

In this register, Grace Zaadi, the “Ambition leader” (dixit Krumbholz) of the band is distinguished by playing the launching pad. At 28, the center-half who has already won everything (the World Cup in 2017, the Euro in 2018 and the Games this summer) is the metronomic hub of the Blue. Imperial in defense, she has been perfectly inspired since the start of the competition to break through the opponent’s safe, also finding, through her precise passes, the pivot Pauletta Foppa. Indispensable, the master at playing? “It’s a small downside: she played a lot”, admits Olivier Krumbholz.

Still a little waste when shooting

No panic though. The bench depth is the other major asset of this team. It is in its ability to rotate the workforce without affecting performance that the team also forges its certainties. The return from injury of Orlane Kanor for example (victim of a ruptured Achilles tendon in April 2021), called at the last minute in the middle of the competition, is timely to bring his science of long range shooting to the Blue. Because if the attacking potential has improved, there is still this waste on shooting, visible in the first half against Sweden.

The lack of gunboats remains a weak point for Les Bleues. “In this area, it is on training that we must focus, on an individual technique no doubt to be better refined among young people, because it is not in the France team that we have the time. to work on shooting, says Olivier Krumbholz. We are focusing on tactical preparation. “

However, it will be necessary to fire everything against the Danes on Friday, past masters in the art of weaving barbed wire (read below). Can the beautiful blue offensive mechanics get stuck? “Against them, if we have a single weak sector, it will not work”, warns Olivier Krumbholz. Condemned to excellence, the Blue. As per usual.


Beware of the Danes

The Blue will meet in the semi-final, Friday December 17 at 5.30 p.m., the Danes against whom they remain on three victories: during the first phase of Euro 2020 (23-20), and in March 2021 in preparation matches at the Tokyo Games to which the Scandinavian team was not invited (26-22 and 24-23). But also drags in the memories of the French this wicked defeat at the 2019 World Cup (18-20) which sealed their traumatic elimination in the first round. Les Bleues know that the debates will be heated, and that they will have to work to overcome a rough defense and especially the two Danish goalkeepers, Sandra Toft and Althea Reinhardt, who have the best save percentages in the competition.



Football: Fifa consults to better impose its biennial World Cup

“The most inclusive and in-depth consultation process the football world has ever seen internationally. “ President Gianni Infantino does not hesitate to praise it, this vast program that his International Football Federation (Fifa) has just launched to collect the opinions of all players in the round ball on the reform of international match schedules, and in particular on its flagship measure: a World Cup every two years.

→ READ. Football: the Blues regain victory against Finland

On September 30, at a four-hour online summit bringing together FIFA member associations, Gianni Infantino made sure not to anger anyone, ensuring that “Everyone must come out a winner from this process”, but hammering that his vision “Is to make football truly global”. Between the lines, it is all the stake of the weeks to come which can be read. Because a battle is well underway.

Major hostility to reform

This World Cup every two years is not a new idea. Gianni Infantino’s predecessor, Sepp Blatter, had suggested it in the late 1990s. But no one had dared to touch the legendary competition. Nearly a quarter of a century later, at least one consensus is emerging: the need to change an international calendar that no longer satisfies anyone. Too many appointments, too many periods in the year forcing players to join their national team, generating fatigue and risk of injury at home, and discontent among club managers forced to let them go.

The solution ? Director of development for Fifa since the end of 2019, ex-Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has been exposing it for a few weeks: more than one or two international breaks (against five today), a World Cup every two years, alternating with a continental competition, such as the Euro for example, which would also become biennial. Just like the Women’s World Cup which would follow the same path.

Since the announcement of the project, a few players have shown major hostility. The continental bodies of Europe (UEFA) and South America (Conmebol), the world union of players (Fifpro), associations of supporters. Individually, voices are raised against the change, from coach Didier Deschamps to his Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez, including former players like Thierry Henry.

For them, a World Cup every two years would dilute the interest of the event, and a major annual international event would exhaust the players. “Have the current players been asked what they think? They are not in favor ”, recently assured the former Bleu on an English channel. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin did not hesitate to wave the threat of a boycott if the reform were to be carried out. Between pro and anti, war is declared.

Playing the rich against the poor

For FIFA, it is first and foremost a matter of communication: convincing that it wants above all a universal development of the game, by responding in particular to the needs of Africa and Asia whose competitions obviously do not have the influence and value of those played by Europeans and South Americans. The bottom line is also largely financial. With a biennial World Cup, Fifa hopes to increase its income, dangling an interesting runoff to neglected continents.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: three European Cups or nothing

A logic that UEFA can afford to denigrate: with its annual European cups, it generates twice as much income as Fifa: $ 12.5 billion from 2017 to 2020, a period that does not even take into account the Euro postponed to 2021, against 6.4 billion for Fifa. Fifa can suddenly play the institution’s card, defending the rest of the world against the interests of the richest.

A vote must finally settle the debates (read opposite). To win, Fifa must convince 106 associations of its 211 members. The African Confederation, whose new president (elected in March 2021), lawyer and billionaire businessman, is known to be very close to Gianni Infantino, declared itself rather favorable last July. She represents 54 votes at the Fifa Congress. The Caribbean Football Union, with its 27 votes, is also won over. The Asian Confederation is still on the reserve, but some of its 47 federations are already applauding with both hands (Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka). The coming weeks indeed promise a lot of backstage turmoil.


A world summit by the end of the year

At the same time as the launch of the consultation process, Fifa announced a calendar on September 30. The current consultation phase also concerns supporters, Fifa promising an international survey of a sample of more than 100,000 people.

Next November, ” a full report on the process will be published and discussed during a ” world summit “That Fifa must organize” by the end of the year “. Will a vote then be decided to effect a change? The vagueness remains on the subject. Even if Fifa would like to go fast, it still has a little time to impose an upheaval that would come into force in 2028.



2022 World Cup: the Blues, the qualifying campaign limping

Almost at the end. From this traveling sequence forcing the Blues to swallow nearly 10,000 km in a week, from these strange qualifications for the 2022 World Cup shifted by the coronavirus and which fall like a hair on the soup in the already tight program of the players, of these locked matches which sequester a deep boredom. The eleven of France faces this Wednesday March 31 in Sarajevo Bosnia-Herzegovina, and for the fun of it, please come back.

To correct their sluggish start against Ukraine (1-1), and their laborious trip to Kazakhstan (2-0), it is above all a question of “Do the job”, if we take the terminology of coach Didier Deschamps. The result, therefore, the essential as always. Because from one generation to the next, so are the Blues: the qualification campaigns are not their cup of tea. Rather a bitter potion, which even the 1998 world champions have indeed sipped.

Chaotic campaigns

From the start of the 1998 school year, their race for Euro 2000 began with a stay in Iceland, under the leadership of Roger Lemerre. The match and the score are zero (1-1) and the former assistant of Aimé Jacquet admits, disappointed, that the Blues “Could not solve the problem posed: eliminate a block”. Yes, already the famous “block”, says more precisely “Low block” today, this concrete defense strategy on which the Blues often crash. They are however in offensive mode in Reykjavik that year (Djorkaeff-Pires-Zidane-Laslandes-Dugarry), but unable to find the solution.

The whole campaign thus unfolds in pain, qualification only intervening in the last day, and again thanks to an incredible twist of fate: a draw between the two rivals of France, Russia and Ukraine, won by the latter on a gag goal at the 87e minute. Russia finds itself eliminated, Ukraine barrage, and France passes through a mouse hole. We know the rest: the European title conquered in extremis against Italy, a good sequence after the World Cup at home.

Another generation, same complication. This time, it is Raymond Domenech at the helm in search of the ticket for the 2006 World Cup. It is necessary to ensure the succession of the golden generation, and the key word is then “Reconstruction”. The foundations are cracked. A 0-0 against Israel, a meager 2-0 brought back from the Faroe Islands, and another 0-0 at home against Ireland. Fighting commotion. The former Zidane, Thuram and Makélélé come back as saviors of the homeland, and the Blues snatch their ticket on the wire. And then comes the superb epic, until overtime under tension in the final lost against Italy.

But the galleys continue. The qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup? The Blues beat Serbia and play-offs against Ireland eliminated (2-1) on the “famous” hand of Thierry Henry. Euro 2012? The Blues of coach Laurent Blanc trample until the last day and a small draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina (1-1). The 2014 World Cup? Second behind Spain, the Blues are still barrage, and against Ukraine, the nightmare of the first leg (2-0 defeat) turns into a thrilling memory thanks to the turnaround of the return (3-0). But the repetition confirms it: the France team limps in qualifying.

A very French exception

None of its great national rivals has exhibited such difficulties since the turn of the century. Over the last eleven campaigns for the Euro or the World Cup, England and Italy certainly miss the boat once completely. England is absent from Euro 2008 and Italy from the 2018 World Cup. But the hitch is an exception. Germany is barrage for access to the 2002 World Cup, and Spain also for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. But they always send the case as a formality. For the rest, their routes are often fitness walks.

The Blues have known only once this type of walk: to go to Portugal to Euro 2004. Eight wins out of 8.29 goals scored and only two conceded. Except that the reward was a surprise defeat in the quarter-finals against the Greeks, future European champions. Demonstration by the counterexample. The Blues are more likely to describe themselves as a Cup team, capable of transcending themselves during the event, or of completely missing out (as at the 2002 or 2010 World Cup).

After the 2018 title, Didier Deschamps especially praised the adaptability of his team. On these qualifiers, these Blues, however, know the strategy of the wall that the opponents are developing, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, even if more playful, should not embark on the attack at full speed. For the moment, however, their adaptability remains very limited. History to keep in reserve for the Euro to come? Strongly the continuation.

Blueberries against Iceland for a place in the quarter

After their disastrous entry into the group stage of Euro Espoirs in Hungary (a 1-0 defeat against Denmark), the Bleuets raised the bar and kept their qualifying chance by beating Russia 2-0. But to get a ticket for the quarter-finals next May, you have to get a good result this Wednesday, March 31 against Iceland. Victory advised, even if a draw may suffice if the Danes, at the top of the group, win against the Russians.



Football: should we boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

The figure is terrible, revealed by a survey of Guardian February 23: 6,500 migrants have died in Qatar since 2010, most from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. A figure probably underestimated according to the British daily, because it lacks statistics from countries like the Philippines or Kenya, which have also sent large numbers of workers to Qatar.

→ READ. In Qatar, the hidden face of the 2022 World Cup

For ten years, more than 2 million foreigners have in fact come to swell the workforce necessary for the construction of stadiums and infrastructures for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They are working in very precarious conditions, in oppressive heat, often without even the certainty of being paid. The recent investigation by Guardian is not the first of its kind. The newspaper has regularly alerted on this subject since 2013 and the death of 44 Nepalese workers on the construction sites of the World Cup.

The Fifa and the FFF indifferent

At the time, the International Football Federation (Fifa) said “Concerned”. Today, less than two years from the event, which will be held from November 21 to December 18, 2022, the tone has changed. “The frequency of accidents at Fifa World Cup construction sites has been low compared to other major construction projects around the world,” cleared the proceedings.

→ ANALYSIS. Despite criticism, Qatar intends to continue its sporting road

The Qatari government, for its part, sees no anomaly in the death rate of its immigrant population and claims that only 20% of these expatriates are employed in the construction sector. It prevents. The debate on a possible boycott of the World Cup in Qatar has returned to the fore.

” Is right, considers Régis Juanico, Génération.s deputy for the Loire, who had already signed a forum in 2019 calling on the French team to boycott. We can no longer tolerate the attribution of major international competitions to these countries still lagging behind in respect of human rights. What governments, in the name of realpolitik and good economic relations, do not dare to do, we can ask sportsmen, who are very popular on social networks and who can shake things up. “

It is true that in recent months, some stars of the France team have not failed – and this is quite new – to position themselves on societal issues, such as Kylian Mbappé on racism or Antoine Griezmann in support of the Uyghurs persecuted in China.

Will they dare to express themselves on the World Cup, the flagship competition in which every footballer dreams of participating? On March 8, in an interview with AFP, the president of the French Football Federation (FFF) Noël Le Graët replied for them: “Qatar has long been designated by officials, we are not going to question the organization within a year. France will be present in Qatar if it qualifies. “

A State sensitive to its international image

To boycott, Amnesty International, which has been working on the subject since 2014, prefers “The pressure on different actors to change things, explains Sabine Gagnier, in charge of corporate and human rights advocacy within the NGO. Qatar is nonetheless very sensitive to its international image, and our numerous campaigns, among others, have enabled labor law to evolve in the country ”.

In two stages, in 2016 and then in August 2020, reforms made it possible to reduce the kafala, this system which prohibits migrant workers from changing jobs without the authorization of their employers. A new law also establishes a minimum wage of € 230 per month.

“These are real advances, but still too slow, admits Sabine Gagnier. And we must remain vigilant. Last February, an opinion from the Shura Council, the parliament of Qatar, recommended limiting the possibility of changing jobs to three times during the stay of workers. It would be a real step backwards. The pressure must not be released. “

In Qatar, the abolition of “kafala” does not sign the end of arbitrariness for foreign workers

Boycotting in order to really make an impression or take advantage of the sporting event to impose gradual changes is a recurring debate, widely present, for example, before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

For Raphaël Le Magoariec, researcher at the University of Tours and specialist in sports policies in the Gulf countries, the effectiveness of the pressure exerted on the occasion of international events exists. “Especially vis-à-vis countries like Qatar, all the same more fragile than behemoths like China. Without the angle of attack offered by the World Cup, the situation would certainly not have changed, and it must be seen that the progress recorded is initiating a dynamic which can also encourage neighboring countries to embark on similar reforms. In this way, movements internal to these societies can occur, which one can judge to be minimal or too slow, but which are nonetheless real ”.



2022 World Cup: the Blues stumble against Ukraine

The French world champions stumbled against Ukraine (1-1) in the inaugural summit of their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Wednesday March 24 in Saint-Denis. A hitch that will have to be erased from next Sunday in Kazakhstan.

Antoine Griezmann may well have put the Blues in orbit early with a sublime wound shot (19th), the “Zbirna” did not let go and equalized on a “csc” from the unfortunate Presnel Kimpembe (57th).

→ ANALYSIS. Football: Ousmane Dembélé back to the Blues just in time for the Euro

By letting the victory slip away against Ukraine, a priori the toughest rival in qualifying group D, the French failed to take the lead, while Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina also shared the points (2-2).

Double displacement awaiting them on Sunday

Didier Deschamps’ troops must now fill up with points and confidence during the double trip that awaits them with the modest team of Kazakhstan, Sunday March 28 in Nur-Sultan (ex-Astana), then in Sarajevo the following Wednesday to challenge the Bosnia of Miralem Pjanic.

→ READ. Football is finally back on the pitch

In the meantime, they were faithful to the history of the France team on Wednesday, punctuated by qualifying phases which are often difficult, sometimes laborious, and which are in any case “Always hardships”, to use the expression used Tuesday by Captain Hugo Lloris. “I’m not darkening the picture, the situation is not obvious, but the qualification course is a long course and not a long quiet river, it has never been”, also noted Didier Deschamps after the match, on TF1.

2022 World Cup: the Blues stumble against Ukraine


The results of the qualifying matches on Wednesday March 24

Finland-Bosnia (2-2)

Estonia-Czech Republic (2-6)

Belgium-Wales (3-1)

Latvia-Montenegro (1-2)

Gibraltar-Norway (0-3)

Turkey-Netherlands (4-2)

Cyprus-Slovakia (0-0)

Malta-Russia (1-3)

Slovenia-Croatia (1-0)

Serbia-Ireland (3-2)

Portugal-Azerbaijan (1-0)