Handball: defeat of the Blues against Denmark in the final, no seventh world title

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.



French handball team: the multiple heads of the blue hydra

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.



Handball World Cup: France in the quarters after the victory of Spain against Slovenia

The France team has qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Handball Championship, even before its match on Friday January 20 (6:00 p.m.) against Iran in Krakow, thanks to Spain’s victory against Slovenia (31 -26).

The Blues (6 pts) can no longer be joined in one of the first two places in Group I of the main round either by Slovenia (4 pts) or by Montenegro (2 pts), which they will overtake in the event of a final tie after beating them.

The Blues will face the Iranians

The reigning Olympic champions dominated the Slovenians in the first round (35-31) and the Montenegrins on Wednesday (35-24).

They will face, after the modest Iranians, Spain (8 pts), also qualified, on Sunday with the challenge of first place in the group. It would allow them to face the second group III (Germany, Norway, Netherlands or Serbia) and not the first.

The quarter-final of the Blues is scheduled for Wednesday January 25, in Gdansk (Poland).



Handball World Cup: France crushes Montenegro and gets closer to the quarters

The French handball team took a step towards the quarter-finals of the Men’s World Cup after starting the main round as it had finished the group stage: with a convincing victory on Wednesday January 18 against Montenegro (35-24 ) in Krakow.

The format of the competition, where the points of the first round (against the other qualified teams) are kept in the second, favors selections like France which have made a clear round.

The Olympic champions, winners of Poland (26-24) then Slovenia (35-31) during the first phase, took the lead in their group with six points, two more than Slovenia and Spain, who plays in the evening.

A game under control again

The first two are qualified for the quarters and the Blues should be, except surprise, one of these, with success in the two games to come, against the modest Iran Friday then Spain Sunday.

The road to Gdansk seems clear after a match that has been mastered again, like against the Slovenes, against the Montenegrins whose game is a little more stereotyped. They thus often forced the shots from the rear base, facilitating the work of Vincent Gérard, who also released some exceptional parades.

The goalkeeper made seven saves in the first twenty minutes to allow the Blues to widen a small gap (10-5, 19th), reduced to only three units at the break (16-13) after a less controlled end to the first period.

Melvyn Richardson, man of the match

Gerard started the second half with three saves. Including two penalties (3/3 in this exercise in the end). He finished with nearly 50% success (15/33). After two goals from left-back Elohim Prandi, author of a good start before experiencing more waste (two failures), Valentin Porte increased the lead to seven units twenty minutes from the end (23-16).

Besides Gérard, the man of the match on the French side was Melvyn Richardson. In the absence of Dika Mem, still injured in the abdominals, the son of the former “Barjot” Jackson Richardson, 1995 world champion, perfectly replaced the position of right-back Nedim Remili, much less successful than Monday against the Slovenians (2/5 and some bad pass choices).

After two failures in his first three shots, Richardson signed almost flawless (10 goals out of 13 attempts), especially on penalties (4/5) where he also replaced Kentin Mahé.



Handball: Dika Mem, the next generation ready to take power

Infuriating? Certainly. This Handball World Cup in Poland and Sweden that the Blues started perfectly in the preliminary round (three wins in three games), Dika Mem is not yet the big player, remained on the bench in the last two games because of an abdominal contracture. He is chomping at the bit, the right winger of the France team, and crosses his fingers for the start of the preliminary round, Wednesday January 18 against Montenegro.

Because his time has come, and he would see himself very punctual at the rendezvous. A year ago, at the start of the Euro that the Blues were going to finish in fourth place, he said he was not “not yet mature”. Twelve months later, his teammate Nedim Remili can say: “Right now, he’s the best player in the world. »

That’s good: Dika Mem is ready to become the boss at a time when Nikola Karabatic, 38 and his suitcase already heavy with ten Worlds (including 4 titles), wants to gradually give up the costume. “The responsibilities, I assume”, so don’t hesitate to let go of Dika Mem. In the almost perfect world of the Blues, this is called transmission, which has always been ensured for thirty years. There is no reason for this to stop. At 25, Dika Mem is programmed to take up the challenge.

handball by chance

His story, however, is unique. Handball fell on him a bit by chance. In his large blended family, with six brothers and sisters, the two eldest, 6 and 7 years older, also play sports, but with a much bigger orange ball: they are basketball pros. And like all the kids at the foot of the cities of his town of Eaubonne (Val-d’Oise), Dika would rather be football. But at 13, he accompanies a friend to the departmental handball selections, and, well, to see, he participates.

Those responsible for detection find many qualities in this boy, and offer him to join. Well, handball, Dika does not find it terrible, but he is proud to be spotted. So bank. The rocket has just taken off. The next step is a very high-speed orbit. At 15, the hopefuls pole, at 18 a first professional contract at Tremblay-en-France (Seine-Saint-Denis), and a year and a half later, a solicitation from the big club Barcelona. The hesitation is not very long.

He signed in July 2016, multiplied his salary by twelve. Three months later, it is the first selection in Blue. He was not selected for the World Cup in France in 2017, but an ankle injury to Luka Karabatic earned him a last-minute call-up. And badaboum, world champion.

Did you say fast? Too much perhaps? Adapting to the Catalan club, where the competition is severe and the pace of life very different than in his youth, hatched by his grandmother Marceline who raised him in a cocoon, is a risk and he knows it. . But in Barcelona, ​​about twenty kilometers from the city center and near the sea, he takes his marks quietly, supported by the Blues of the club, Timothey N’Guessan and especially Cédric Sorhaindo, quadruple world champion and gold medalist in London in 2012, who willingly plays the big brother.

“Mark the history” of his sport

Dika Mem is not really the type to disperse. Hard worker, perfectionist, with always a desire to learn that his close relations underline. Its windows on the outside give rather on the virtual world. Fashion, social networks, video games. With the latter, the one who hides online behind the nickname Dikson95, would even come close to addiction without the constraints of the field.

But he thus finds his balance, progresses in Barcelona to impose himself largely for two years. He is not for nothing in the two European championship titles won by the club in 2021 and 2022. Now vice-captain of the team, he is the Catalan master of the game. Even more open to others. Video games occupy him less. The hatching of a star? “Honestly, I don’t dwell too much on what is said about me”he assures.

But he repeats wanting ” Mark history “ of his sport. It’s said without boasting, in an even tone, as always. If he is world champion again, he will probably write it somewhere on his body. Tattooed all over. On his chest, stars for his parents and his grandmother, the names of his brothers and sisters on both arms, on the left the neighborhood of his childhood, to never forget where he comes from. ” This is my story “, he summarizes. Already busy, but just getting started.


An extended World Cup

After three victories in the first round of this World Cup against Poland (26-24), Saudi Arabia (41-23) and Slovenia (35-31), the Blues have a mattress of four points to tackle the main round in Group 1 of six teams.

The Blues are due to play on Wednesday January 18 against Montenegro, then on January 20 against Iran, and on January 22 against Spain. If they are in the top two in this group at the end of their three matches, they will qualify for the quarter-finals on January 25.

The objective is to finish in the lead, just to secure a “comfortable” quarter-final, for example against the Netherlands and Serbia, a priori less hard to play than Germany or Norway. The road to the title is still long in this extended World Cup.



Handball World Cup: France beats Slovenia and opens the way to the quarters

The path is drawn. The French handball team opened the door to the quarter-finals of the Men’s World Cup after concluding the first round with a third victory in as many games on Monday against Slovenia (35-31) in Katowice (Poland). ).

The Blues, who already had their ticket for the main round before the match, will indeed approach it with a nest egg of four points, two more than the Slovenians. Two successes in the upcoming matches, starting on Wednesday, against Spain, Montenegro and Iran, should be enough to reach the quarter-finals.

The reigning Olympic champions therefore offered themselves a precious joker by finishing at the top of their pool in the first round, after a very solid match against the Slovenians which confirmed the victories against Poland (26-24) and Saudi Arabia (41-23).

Test passed with flying colors

This last meeting against Slovenia, which had showered Poland (32-23) in front of its public, represented a test, and the Blues passed it with flying colors. Even deprived of Dika Mem, their right back and key man, injured in the abdominals.

The FC Barcelona player, spared against the Saudis without the coaching specifying that he was injured, was replaced by Nedim Remili, who slipped from the position of center half successfully (7 goals out of 8 attempts).

In general, the entire rear base delivered a full performance: Kentin Mahé (7/12) animated well and scored a few goals which relieved his team. Including two to give him a six-point lead fifteen minutes from the end (28-22).

Good dose of confidence

The veteran Nikola Karabatic showed him that he was still in good shape at 38, notably author of a subtle lob (37th, 22-16), before experiencing a little more waste (4/8 in the end). His brother Luka, the captain, entered the competition after being spared, with a sore back, during the first two meetings.

With their centerpiece in defense, the Blues contained the Slovenes well, whose delay at the break (14-16) could have been greater without the five French temporary exclusions. Including two for Remili, and two in the last five minutes (Remili and Richardson).

Behind the tricolor wall, Vincent Gérard held the shop (11 stops) after having launched his two periods in the same way: by a penalty stopped (3rd and 32nd). France will leave for Krakow on Tuesday with a good dose of confidence.



Handball: Nelson Paillou, humanism on the rebound

The success of tricolor handball in the 1990s was built on solid foundations which owe a great deal to a leading figure in the discipline: Nelson Paillou. In 1964, the Bordelais took over the presidency of a Lilliputian French Handball Federation (FFHB), which existed above all through the establishment of its sport in the school environment. So it rings the alarm clock.

“The desire to win without despising the other”

He is not a former high-level player, nor a technician, but the former professor of modern literature knows how to commit like no one else and win support. In a few years, he structured his institution – recognized as being of public utility in 1971 – and defined major areas of development with a leitmotif : “To give young people the desire to win without despising the other”.

Nelson Paillou is a very political leader, a network man (Freemason) with a humanism over his shoulder, who believes above all in educational sport. A hell of a character too, a little guy but a big mind“very warm, who shook hands with a vengeance and kissed 25 times a day, rather paternalistic but with a crazy charisma, for us young players, a passionate icon”remembers Philippe Gardent, in blue from 1983 to 1995.

Support for women’s sections

Nelson Paillou is on all fronts, especially international. By winning the organization of the 1970 World Cup, he put France on the map of the discipline. He campaigned in the process for the reintroduction of handball at the Olympic Games, effective in 1972. With him, the FFHB went from 25,000 to 170,000 licensees in twenty years. The pool of talent is expanding, growing in sports-studies, with follow-up throughout the territory, the FFHB being the first to invest in regional technical advisers.

It also strongly supports the development of women’s handball sections. Under his tenure, the share of women among FFHB licensees increased from 10 to 34%, above the average for other Olympic federations. At the end of the 1990s, the Bleues drew on this reservoir. Nelson Paillou conceded only one “very serious mistake” to Pierre de Coubertin’s conception of sport: the fact of not having believed in “women’s official sport”.

For the rest, he is on the same line as the baron defender of amateurism. No money, no sponsors, the debate is closed as long as he is at the head of the FFHB. This earned him many criticisms, and the feeling that he was a brake on the necessary evolution of a policy focused on the quest for new means to perform. The FFHB only authorized advertising on jerseys in 1984, a quarter of a century after basketball’s cousins.

No “unbridled commodification”

“This is, moreover, the whole paradox of Paillouunderlines Daniel Costantini, coach of the France team of the 1990s. This evolution that he refused for handball, he will put it to music when he takes the head of the French Olympic Committee from 1982, understanding that high level sport could not get by without private partners. » It is then the trend, carried in particular by the president of the IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch. Nelson Paillou complies, but with suspicion. “In the last ten years of the century, he warned in 1990, the sport will stake its life: either we keep a humanist dimension to it, or else it will fall into the hands of the merchants of the temple, the margoulins. »

Moving forward without getting lost, on a sort of fairly narrow third way, was the leadership of Nelson Paillou, who would later inspire Joël Delplanque, chief of staff to the president of the CNOSF and who took over the reins of the FFHB in 2008 (until 2020). “The professionalization of handball, we have carried it out step by step, with our culture which is more in control than in unbridled commodificationhe comments. Nelson Paillou’s speech seems to me to be more topical than ever in an unbalanced world. Reiterating the importance of educational values, of fun games, repeating that repairing the social fabric also involves healthier personal behaviors in which simple and joyful sports practice contributes, it is a precious reminder..



At the origins of the excellence of French handball

Everything is fine and it lasts. The Blues of handball approached the World Cup, Wednesday, January 11, with the same ambition that they have been carrying around now for thirty years. They are still aiming for a podium, to add a medal to their long-term record already loaded with 21 charms in international competition.

The habit of seeing these Blues at the top helping, we almost forget the exceptional nature of this longevity at altitude. And also that it was not always so. The durability of the results undoubtedly comes from this time when French handball was close to nothingness at the international level. “My generation is so afraid of going back to square one that they do everything they can to perform again and again. We have suffered too much and for too long.loose Philippe Bana, 65, the current president of the French Handball Federation (FFHB).

Coming out of nothingness

The starting point ? It was in the mid-1980s. Handball was emerging from a period of structuring under the leadership of its sparkling president Nelson Paillou, who since 1964 had been responsible for transforming the discipline into a mass sport, betting very strongly on the school sports. The policy pursued by the man who in 1982 became president of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (Cnosf) left solid foundations… but a French team that dawdled in terms of results.

“At the time, handball was dominated by Eastern European countries and Germany, and you couldn’t imagine for a moment being able to overturn the table. We are in a sort of resigned routine”remembers Olivier Krumbholz, in blue in 1983 before later taking care of women’s handball to become the major architect of his progress as coach of the France team which he still leads. “And then we only train twice a week, because we work elsewhere, while the guys from the Eastern bloc only do that”adds Philippe Gardent, in selection since 1983 and future captain of the Blues.

The Blues find themselves in 1985 relegated to the third international division, having to play the World Cup C. A humiliation. It was necessary to react, especially since Paris was then a candidate for the organization of the 1992 Olympic Games. After years of having privileged the masses, the FFHB decided on a plan much more oriented towards the top level. And in particular the France team.

The Costantini Revolution

In October 1986, however, the decision of the International Olympic Committee falls, which gives the 1992 Games to Barcelona. Backfire? No. The FFHB stays the course and the redefined objective is a qualification for the Games, which would be a first for the Blues. The plan becomes “Pari 1992”. The technician who made the heyday of the Marseille club, Daniel Costantini, takes control of the France team, with a program of hell.

“I implement a specific training formula for around twenty internationals, 2 hours every morning, with in particular bodybuilding which is hardly done at the time.says Daniel Costantini. We double the training volume for two years. We must make the clubs accept to lose some control over the internationals in this way. It’s a revolution. But they play the game. The formula also requires paying the players, inaugurating a semi-professionalism that will develop.

A crazy obstacle course

At this rate, the internationals quickly become competitive. And fortunately, because getting the ticket to Barcelona is a crazy obstacle course. The Blues first won the World C to find the World B in 1989. It took place in France and that was good because you had to be in the top five to reach the World A the following year. just by winning the match for the 5e place against Switzerland (19-13). In 1990, in Czechoslovakia, the last possibility of qualification in Barcelona is offered to the winner of the match for the 9e square. The Blues are there against Iceland, “at 9 a.m., an improbable time, but which guarantees us a very long party behind”, still having fun Philippe Gardent. Because the Blues win 29-23, “which starts the whole story”summarizes the ex-captain.

Effectively. The Blues certainly take advantage of the collapse of certain teams in the East after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but they know how to seize their chance. They are Olympic, why stop there? “In warm-up matches, we pull off a few good shots, we see that something is born, even if we are perhaps the only ones who think we can exist in this competition”, continues Philippe Gardent. The Blues do exist: bronze medal. And they confirmed at the 1993 world championship in Sweden, winning silver and a nickname, the “Barjots”, the group distinguishing itself by its talent and its festive outbursts. Two years later, it’s the Holy Grail: 1995 world champions in Iceland.

Sustainability of results

Three years to put French handball on top of the world. The view is beautiful. Nobody wants to come down. “Several factors will then allow the sustainability of the resultsexplains Lise Cardin, doctor in science and technology of physical and sports activities (Staps) and specialist in the history of the discipline. External factors such as the Bosman judgment which authorizes the free movement of players in Europe. Those from Eastern countries will come to France and advance the level of clubs. The tricolor internationals finally recognized will go to harden themselves abroad. Internally, the technical management and the national coaches will take care to disseminate their knowledge through regular meetings with the technical managers of France, and the detection and training will be accentuated with the implementation in the years 1990 training centers for clubs and poles. »

The Barjots, the Strong and the Experts

The renewal of talents is thus ensured, and their gradual integration into the French team is successful with a certain fluidity. After the Barjots, the Heavyweights, then the Experts who crushed everything from 2008 to 2015 under the leadership of Claude Onesta. “The Blues are renewed by thirds, the team thus being a diesel that never chokes. This is what I call sustainable performance”, comments Philippe Bana. Who as deputy national technical director from 1995 then in full in 1999 applied himself to another rise in power: that of the Blue. With the setting in music, the conductor Olivier Krumbholz, at the baton in 1998. “Daniel Costantini’s precepts, we could adapt them perfectly to women’s handball, and since we also had a large pool, we moved forward quite quickly”indicates the technician, vice-world champion since 1999. Less than fifteen years later, the Blue Olympic champions in title accumulate 13 international medals.

Handball thus draws a major success since 1992 and the first Olympic medal for a French collective sport, with yet a still minimal recognition sometimes generating some frustrations. Because at each competition, the Blues or the Blues almost always feel called upon to prove. But without complaining, they do.

An impressive track record

The winners of the Blues: Three Olympic titles (2008, 2012, 2021), silver in 2016 and bronze in 1992. Six world titles (1995, 2001, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017), silver in 1993, and bronze in 1997 , 2003, 2005 and 2019. Three European titles (2006, 2010, 2014) and bronze in 2008 and 2018.

The winners of the Blues: An Olympic title (2021) and silver in 2016. Two world titles (2003 and 2017) and silver four times (1999, 2009, 2011, 2021). A European title in 2018, silver in 2020, and bronze in 2002, 2006 and 2016.

The Blues started the 28e edition of the world championship Wednesday, January 11 against Poland, host country with Sweden. The rest of their first round is for January 14 against Saudi Arabia (6 p.m.) and January 16 against Slovenia (6 p.m.).



In search of emotion, the public returns to French stadiums

Delighted, Hervé Beddeleem wears a broad smile when presenting his attendance figures. “When we look at the figures for the years preceding the health crisis, we realize that we have increased our classic subscriptions and our VIP subscriptions. » To explain such a situation, the executive director of BCM Basket (Gravelines-Dunkerque) believes that the maintenance of certain sports competitions, in times of Covid, has nevertheless allowed the public to “to keep a habit and an intimate attachment to sport, while cinemas were at a standstill and people were getting used to video platforms. »

Since the health crisis, the world of culture continues to suffer from public disaffection. The cinemas are gray, the theaters are empty. In this ambient slump, the world of sport stands out. In the stadiums, the public is back. According to Hervé Beddeleem, the festive spirit of a sporting event coincides with a desire of citizens to get together and celebrate positive things together.

“The return of the public would undoubtedly not have been followed without an adequate sports policy, which made it possible to bring in great players and to obtain results which encourage them to return to the stadium”he explains to justify the action of his club, faced with these new challenges. “We practiced special pricing by not increasing prices. Some were even lowered during the Coupe de France,” he remembers.

Implementation of strategies to reengage the public

This positive example does not reflect the whole of French sport. “The 2021-2022 season, which followed the crisis, was particularly difficult. The habits of the public have changed and add to an obvious problem of purchasing power”, tempers Fabien Roy, financial and administrative director of Fenix ​​Toulouse Handball. “We had as many spectators in total, but with the difference that we had twice as many matches, because of our qualification for the European Cup. That says a lot. »

Since the start of the school year, however, the trend seems encouraging: “We are back to our 2019 load factors, although it is a bit early to celebrate. » To remedy this, the club thought about a marketing strategy advocating the “spectacle stadium” where players make themselves available to the public, to encourage them to come to the stadium.

“Everyone plays the game, the players themselves are not above ground, they understand what is at stake”, explains Fabien Roy. The latter wishes to bet on a healthy collaboration between team sports: “Rugby and football players came to watch the handball matches. It’s up to the behemoths to give us a hand, if only to set an example. »

The most popular sports float

Football, the most popular sport in France, is benefiting from a substantial return of the public to sports venues. During the 2021-2022 season – the first full year after the health crisis – the occupancy rate of Ligue 1 stadiums was 73.9% compared to 73% in 2018-2019 and 71% the previous year, according to figures Professional Football League (LFP) officials. Nearly ten million supporters filled the stands of the various French stadiums last year.

These encouraging figures should not make us forget that, faced with its European competitors, the stands of the French championship are less attractive. In the Premier League, the English football championship, the occupancy rate fluctuates around 92%. In Germany, the rate remains around 95%. Only Spain and Italy seem to have lost spectators in recent years, still ensuring an occupancy rate of over 80%.

“We are going over the figures for 2019”

On the rugby side, while the first figures for the 2022-2023 financial year will soon be revealed, we are pleased with a rediscovered pre-Covid influx. “No doubt taking advantage of the 2023 World Cup effect and the good results of the Blues at the Six Nations Tournament, we see that we have achieved the best attendances in our stadiums for a decade”relates Thibault Brugeron, media manager for the National Rugby League. “This is due in particular to a massive communication campaign, at the end of the health crisis, to encourage people to return to the stadiums. »

Alain Béral, president of the National Basketball League, mentions an attendance rate in the stadiums of more than 80% this year. “We are in the process of going above the figures of 2019.”

For this leader, the aspect ” serial “ offered by the field of sport can explain the reasons for a return to normal. “Apart from obtaining broadcasting rights, which are certainly important, our priority for ten or fifteen years has been to bring people to the stadiums, which explains why our sport is perhaps ahead of others. others in France »testifies the latter.

Sport, a “personal commitment”

The main sports therefore seem to be doing well. For Robin Recours, lecturer at the Faculty of Sports Sciences in Montpellier, this is explained by “the immense catharsis space” offered by sports fields. It can be played “all the dramas of humanity. We can experience, during a match, a gigantic palette of emotions, ranging from laughter to tears, from anxiety to deliverance, from anger to sadness or joy. explains the historian.

Unlike the world of music or the theater, there are also strong personal identifications with the product in the consumption of sporting events. “An amateur basketball player identifies as a basketball player. It is therefore important for him to practice his sport but also to see what is happening on professional grounds. »

“Few shows allow such an identification, such a personal commitment to consumption”, continues Robin Recourse. Moreover, sport remains a space in which consumers often feel expert. “It’s the famous adage: we live in a country of 66 million breeders who have a clear opinion”recalls the historian.

As for stadium occupancy rates, Robin Recours believes that sports federations in France are “Historically amateur federations and have taken a long time to become professional”.“There is a conservatism on the side of sports federations when it comes to marketing the entertainment world”continues the researcher. “So if France is not a sporting country, it’s more because of a lack of resources than a lack of culture. »


Ever bigger speakers

With more than 80,000 seats, the Stade de France remains the largest sports arena in France, ahead of the Vélodrome de Marseille (more than 67,000 seats) and the Groupama Stadium in Lyon (59,000 seats).

England has more imposing structures, with the stadiums of Wembley (90,000 seats) and Old Trafford (nearly 76,000 seats). In Spain, the Camp Nou welcomes more than 99,000 visitors. A record in Europe.

On the occasion of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a new enclosure will see the light of day in the heart of Paris, Porte de la Chapelle. The future 7,800-seat “Adidas Arena” stadium will host badminton and gymnastics events.



In team sports, the mental coach still has to find his place

The Blues in silver during their recent Euro and the Blue in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Thursday, September 29 in Australia? If the French teams are rather good in their basketball, it may have something to do with it: before the Tokyo Games, Richard Ouvrard had accompanied the coaches of the two national basketball teams, who had completed their fortnight silver (men) and bronze (women).

Since then, the “mental coach” has started working with the players, still in its infancy but already paying off. “A global psychosocial approach, with very rich interpersonal processes, because I have relationships with everyone: the national technical director of the French federation, the technical and medical management of the teams, the groups of playershe explains. It is a systemic work that we must continue until the meeting of Paris 2024. “

Trainer Sensitivity

Richard Ouvrard is not his first experience with tricolor collectives. He muscled the mind of the Blue handball before the Rio Games and until the triumph of those in Tokyo. A more obvious success than his fifteen months of collaboration with the Bleues du football for the 2019 World Cup, without a future for lack of osmosis between the expert and the coach Corinne Deacon. And this is the limit of the intervention of a mental trainer within a collective: “It still really depends on the sensitivity of the coach. It is often he who is convinced or not of the interest of integrating a specialist or not, “ underlines Christian Penigaud, former European champion of beach volleyball (in 1993) then federal technician converted into mental coaching, called for three years alongside the French women’s volleyball team.

Do the 2024 Games in Paris push the federations to better arm themselves? “The awareness of France’s delay in this area is real, but acquiring this tool is not yet systematictestifies Laurent Chambertin, 350 selections with the Blues of volleyball between 1986 and 2001, today mental coach integrated into the high performance cell of Insep. There are still resistances: to call on an expert is to recognize a weakness. So no: it’s just wanting to improve performance. »

This difficulty, Christian Penigaud observes in the training he delivers to coaches within his federation: “There is still a lot of misunderstanding about our work, and when coaches experience a collaboration, they often tell me either it went wrong or they didn’t know what was really going on. the mental trainer. » The place of the expert within the collective is in fact a key issue. “Integrating a community with its rites and its language is not easy and you have to work upstreamsays Richard Ouvrard. Because the main thing is to be able to regulate information and emotions to make human relations more fluid. »

The performance-personality tandem

What is at stake is not always obvious, to the point that the concept of “invisible training” is sometimes evoked. “I try to work concretely on things that can be seen and measuredloose Christian Penigaud, rather reserved. It’s about improving performance, something quantifiable. » Laurent Chambertin insists on the performance-personality tandem, “without splitting the two, and insisting on sustainability so that the athletes take ownership of the work and are autonomous behind it, to promote the turnover of the workforce, for example”. However, the intervention of the mental trainer should not necessarily be too long, “to avoid habituation and a guru phenomenon”, warns the specialist.

The field is vast, and no doubt 2024 is not the ultimate deadline. “We can also talk about heritage in this areaconcludes Laurent Chambertin. Train our young people by giving them time to understand and acquire good practices, and give them a head start for Los Angeles 2028.”