Rugby: Castres Olympique, the success of a club rooted in its territory

The life in blue. And white. In Castres, it’s like that. The colors of the rugby club, Castres Olympique (CO), brighten up the local mood. Even more these last days of electric patience before the semi-final of the Top 14, Friday June 17 in the evening in Nice, against the big red and black neighbors of Toulouse. In the small town of Tarn, shopkeepers are playing the game in the shop window, the giant screen is ready on Place Soult, and 40,000 inhabitants are waiting to vibrate in unison.

However, it is not the exceptional nature of the event that mobilizes the city. Since 2012, this is the fifth time that CO has reached the last four. And his initials were engraved on the Brennus shield given to the champion twice, in 2013 and 2018. Castres is well and truly used to the top. Nevertheless, she never shuns her pleasure, entirely dedicated to her oval passion.

A unique proximity with the players

“Castres is an isolated sub-prefecture, where life can sometimes be complicated, and where rugby is an opportunity to unite around a common cause. It’s a source of pride and a very strong identity factor, probably more so than elsewhere. » The one who thus poses the picture is Pierre-Yves Revol, president of the club since 1988 (except between 2008 and 2014), and also president of the Pierre-Fabre Foundation, the pharmaceutical giant from Tarn (2.5 billion euros in revenue in 2021) which abounds the coffers of the club.

The CO is probably not the Tom Thumb that the boss takes pleasure in describing, but he does display a singularity in a rugby landscape dominated by large cities. “We have the tenth budget of the Top 14, and to remain competitive, we need a different recipecontinues Pierre-Yves Revol. Our ingredients? First, an ability to detect unknown talents. Then, to keep them as long as possible by promoting our values, and in particular the important interactions with the population. Finally, essential transmission work, with many former players in the management, retraining that we also support locally. »

In fact, if the CO has players of excellence like the back Julien Dumora, the Fijian center Vilimoni Botitu or the Australian second line Tom Staniforth, he never points out his individualities, always preferring to praise the collective. The players have integrated the discourse and also fade away without hesitating behind the group. Are internationals rare? So much the better, the CO keeps its troops, when the leaders of the championship have to deal with duplicates. The keys to success this year are also there, with the team finishing first in the regular season for the first time.

A quarter of the population at the stadium

No stars at CO therefore, where everyone remains accessible. “There is a real closeness with the players», assures Didier Hardy, former soldier of the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (RPIMa) of Castres, another pillar of the city, and president of the Friends of Rugby, a supporters club born in 2012. “A real familiarity sets in, without it weighing on them, and the players appreciate it. Often, they don’t want to leave anymore. The audience, very family-oriented, pays them back. Even during Covid and games behind closed doors, we were outside the stadium with the sound to support them. »

President of Pouvoir Castres, another association of supporters created in 2005, Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani also applauds the availability of the players. “Seventeen of them are the sponsors of our association, and they very often come to the evenings that we organize or to help us. I’m not sure that’s the case everywhere. »

His brother Julien, ex-president of the association, evokes for his part a “true communion of spirit: during the Covid, we were the first club where the supporters agreed not to be reimbursed for their subscription, and the players the first to agree to a reduction in wages. When you see that a quarter of the city’s population ends up at the Pierre-Fabre stadium every other Sunday, I find that quite beautiful.”.

Pierre Fabre, the name of the creator of pharmaceutical laboratories, who died in 2013, remains unifying in the Tarn city. “It all starts with him, in fact, with his lifelong loyalty to the territory, more patriarch than big bosssummarizes Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani. He remains the dad of the city and of the CO, really. »

Pierre-Yves Revol now ensures the heritage, even evoking the notion of pleasure “wider than sporting or aesthetic pleasure. This team joins the trajectory of the Pierre Fabre group, with one mission: to promote this city. After our title in 2013, many doubted the sustainability of this adventure. We are still here, hoping that we can continue to value this territory for a long time”.


Pierre-Henry Broncan, the leader of men

For ten years, the CO has been working to recruit coaches in line with the club’s philosophy. After the duo of Laurent, Travers and Labit, architects of the first title in 2013, then Christophe Urios at the maneuver for that of 2018, it is Pierre-Henry Broncan who has been in charge since December 2020. The 48-year-old technician, passed by Auch, Stade Toulouse and Bath in England, is in line with the values ​​of Tarn. No sweeping declarations, an incredible knowledge of world rugby which allows him to unearth rare profiles, a pragmatic conception of the game. It’s not always spectacular, but it often wins. Perfect summary of the CO.



“Emotions without supporters, there are none”: when Toulouse vibrates for its football

The bus rips through the purple mist. An explosion of smoke greets the Toulouse Football Club team which arrives at the Stadium of the Pink City. They are like that, the ultra supporters. Their hopes often go up in smoke. But their greatest joys too. And no doubt, this Saturday, May 7 will be a party: the opportunity to celebrate the return of “téfécé” in the elite next season, a certainty acquired in accounting terms two weeks earlier, and, all are convinced, the Ligue 2 title.

→ READ. When our emotions govern us, our file

To experience this ultimate emotion, you still have to beat the visitors from Nîmes on this penultimate day of the championship. Exactly 27,868 spectators are waiting for this big evening, the second highest attendance of the season. On the bridge leading to the sports arena, Abdel applauds the influx of the crowd: “It’s really nice to see people and such an atmosphere again, welcomes the sexagenarian. The Stadium, for a long time, it remained dull. But tonight, look at the people, the kids there, with their parents, the happy faces they have. It’s not beautiful, is it? »

→ READ. The glory day of the Blues has arrived!


Seeing Toulouse waking up in this way after years of lethargy in Ligue 1 culminating in a descent to the second division at the end of the 2019-2020 season, is a real comfort for Alain Grolier, the president of the TFC supporters club, loyal for more 35 years old. Acquired by the American investment fund RedBird Capital Partners, the team rebuilt around young unknown players dominated this year with shimmering football, as evidenced by the record for goals in Ligue 2 (82). “During certain phases of the game, the stands rise so much they delight us, enthuses Alain Grolier, and I can clearly see the emotion circulating: the eyes are sparkling, believe me. And we find a certain communion, a sharing with the other groups of supporters. »

→ FILE. Football, the most popular sport in the world

The ultras in particular have regained vigor, in the forefront of which the Indians Tolosa, the loudest of all, born in 1993. Paul Cometto was the main animator throughout the 2000s, and even if he now lives in Paris, he managed this season to follow a dozen matches of this TFC back in favor. “I’m still a supporter, and it’s a passion that can’t be lived alone, on your sofa, loose the 38-year-old fan. The collective dimension is essential. The emotional power is increased tenfold when shared in this way. It’s like a drug. Intense. TFC is a difficult club to love. He rarely makes people happy. So if we stay, it’s mainly for the collective. At the Indians, I have had brothers and sisters for years. »

→ READ. 2018 World Cup: After the victory of the blues, relive the evening of jubilation in France and around the world


And these brothers and sisters hold hands tight this May 7th. A sumptuous “tifo” – this visual animation organized by the ultras – awaits the TFC in the east corner of the Stadium. “Honor to the champions of the city”, can we read, with large portraits of the players presented as knights of Occitania. The songs tumble down with force, a forest of arms pushes in rhythm, the vibration spreads in all the enclosure. Against the course of the game, Nîmes nevertheless leads at the break (0-1). The Stadium does not let go of its men. Who will turn the situation around. At the final whistle, 2-1 for Toulouse, all the stands surge onto the lawn. General jubilation, the announcer in a swoon, the players soon on the balcony. They brandish their champion trophy and the crowd exults.

→ IN IMAGES. The crowd cheers the champions on the Champs-Élysées

“Outside of sport, few sectors offer this opportunity to see people so different but happy together, comments Paul Cometto. It’s good to create something common and to get out of exclusively individualistic relationships. Among the Indians, for example, we forbid mobile phones in the stands. It is a question of looking at each other less in order to be in the collective. The little video you can post on Instagram has nothing to do with what you’re going to experience with the band. »


The evening never ends. In the bowels of the Stadium, the players watch the film. Goalkeeper Maxime Dupe: “We play football to experience emotions, and emotions without supporters, there are none. And tonight, my 4-year-old son may still remember it in forty years, and I get chills, it’s beautiful. » An evening that remains engraved in the memories, the TFC must go back to October 1986 to find the indelible trace. That year, the team of Argentines Beto Marcico and Alberto Tarantini eliminated in the first round of the UEFA Cup the Naples of the already legendary Maradona. In one of the shuttles which brings the supporters back to the city center after the victory against Nîmes, two sexagenarians do not fail to refer to the “great era”. Hoping to experience a new youth in the future.

The next day, Place du Capitole, it is again the whole team on the balcony of the town hall. A tradition to which Toulouse is much more accustomed with the cousins ​​of rugby, the Stadium and its palmares as long as the arm which has always left the TFC in the shadows. The Tolosa Indians provide the slap, even if the voices are a tad hoarse after a long night of celebrations. A septuagenarian couple on a walk enjoys: “It’s rare such enthusiasm for football here, but we must recognize that the supporters know how to do it. They are louder than the rugby crowd. There were no overflows, and that’s good. After this period of political tension where we are divided and confused, it’s rather invigorating to find harmony, isn’t it? » Whether.



Paris 2024: before the Olympics, sport as a tool for social innovation

Suspended nearly 15m high, Ibrahim displays a bright smile. He didn’t hesitate for a second, tackled the climbing wall without trembling and, having reached the top of the wall, took advantage of the view without the slightest dizziness. The descent, well wedged in his harness, is obviously too fast, but he must leave room for his comrades.

They are six students from the Sylvain-Dauriac primary school in Bagatelle, a popular district of Toulouse, to do their range in the discipline, this Wednesday afternoon, at the Quéfets gymnasium in Tournefeuille, in the suburbs of the Pink City. But it is already a small revolution, possible thanks to Paris 2024.

→ EXPLANATION. Paris Olympics: what are the “exception laws” that Emmanuel Macron proposes to use?

The project in which these kids are taking part is part of the “Impact 2024” program which, for the past two years, has been supporting initiatives carried out by multiple players, athletes and institutions. An endowment fund has been created for this purpose. In 2021, 4.9 million euros had been spent on 224 projects. They will be around 250 this year to share an envelope of 5.8 million euros.

“With our brand, we bring visibility to projects that must show how sport can change lives, underlines Damien Combredet-Blassel, Sport & Society Manager at Paris 2024. We also want them to help get the different players used to working together and that such good practices will take hold beyond the Games if possible. »

“Broadening Horizons”

Endowed with €42,000, the Occitanie league project of the French Mountain and Climbing Federation carries this ambition. “It starts from a desire to introduce young people from the neighborhoods to our discipline, far removed from their concerns, to broaden their horizons by taking them to the mountains”, exposes Anne Geernaert, the director of the regional FFME league.

Initially, the desire was to associate schools from two priority neighborhoods of city policy (QPV), Bagatelle in Toulouse and Laubadère in Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées), and to allow regular exchanges on sites offering the access to the many joys of the mountains (hiking, climbing, via ferrata, etc.).

But the realization testifies to the difficulties encountered in this kind of project. “We had misjudged the resistance to the health pass in the neighborhoods, and we were therefore unable to launch the operation in the fall of 2021 with middle school students, because they could not have access to the gymnasiums”, illustrates Anne Geernaert.

At the end of winter, after an initiation on a mobile climbing block at the college which had some success, more than a hundred students showed interest. But when planning a trip to Tournefeuille’s world-class climbing wall, “We fell during Ramadan and only two students showed up, also tells Ethel Barnabé, former CPE of the college and seasoned climber at the origin of the project. We therefore turned to the CM1-CM2 of the elementary school who took advantage of the windfall! “.

“Encouraging perseverance, the main challenge”

On the side of Tarbes, it is the inauguration deferred for six months of a new climbing wall which has also postponed the project. Its promoters are in the starting blocks to really bring it to life from the start of the next school year. “It’s a long job to attract young people, also convince parents to trust us, recalls Ethel Barnabé. On our territories, it takes a lot of energy to register an activity in the long term. Encouraging perseverance is our main challenge. »

→ ANALYSIS. Construction sites under pressure, poorly protected workers

In Tarbes, Marlène Margui, relay of the project and member of the Roc & Pyrène club, wants to add another dimension to the affair: to convince, in addition to young people, certain mothers. “To form a group of women and ultimately succeed in a common challenge on an ascent in the summer of 2023, explains the host, who also works on city policy. There are many obstacles to overcome, in particular the cultural weight which does not facilitate access to sport for women in these neighborhoods, but I want to believe in it. And I hope to demonstrate with this pilot project that it is possible, and to inspire other clubs. » Experimenting and then expanding, such is the challenge for Paris 2024.


Doing better around disability

With its Impact program, Paris 2024 also hopes to provoke a “interesting leverage effect”says its manager, Damien Combredet-Blassel: “When we invest €1, it enables us to raise €3 from other partners. » Since 2020, Paris 2024 has had 700,000 beneficiaries of its program. An effort to continue, and to accentuate for projects of access to sports practice for the disabled, “currently our area of ​​weakness”recognizes the delegate general. “Projects around disability require a lot of time, skills and specific equipment, which explains the difficulty in bringing them to light, tip Apolline Vedrenne, Paralympic referent in Occitania. But Paris 2024 should put a particular focus on disabled sport next year. »



Rugby: Dumbéa, New Caledonian nursery for the Toulouse Stadium

In the light of the setting sun, twenty teenagers multiply runs, feints and passes at the Koutio sports park, an oval ball in hand. They engage in a joyful game of “touch”, contactless rugby, as Peato Mauvaka did before them. Because the international hooker from the Toulouse Stadium, replacing this Sunday, December 26 for the shock against the French Stadium in the French championship, also trod this field of Dumbéa, a town in the suburbs of Nouméa where he grew up.

→ ANALYSIS. New Caledonia, a strategic and coveted territory

The 24-year-old forward revealed himself to the general public by scoring two tries during the victory of the French XV against New Zealand last November (40-25). Toulouse recruiters had noticed this ten years earlier. Coming in search of new talents in New Caledonia, they spotted him when he was barely 14 years old and was taking his first steps in rugby, without even having signed a license with the Union Rugby Club de Dumbéa (URCD ). “At the time, Peato was playing three-quarters, says Frédérick Hervouet, co-founder and vice-president of this club created in 2009. It was his very dynamic side that had marked them. “

His size did not leave them indifferent either. Peato Mauvaka comes from the large community from Wallis-and-Futuna living on the “Caillou”. These Polynesians often stand out in terms of their size. If they represent less than 10% of the New Caledonian population, they constitute 80% of the 170 licensees of this sports association in the north of Noumea, a sector of the agglomeration where many Oceanians live.

One of the best French players

After less than a month of practice in Dumbéa, the young beginner left for Haute-Garonne to become one of the best French quinzistes of his generation. “When you see a kid that we started to train scoring two tries at the All Blacks, we can not ask for anything more as a volunteer, we are paid”, emphasizes Frédérick Hervouet. Four young shoots of the URCD made the same journey at the same time, within the framework of an agreement signed with the Toulouse Stadium.

Today, two are also professionals in the red and black jersey, Paulo Tafili and Rodrigue Neti. Others have joined Grenoble, Pau or Perpignan. ASM Clermont-Auvergne took over from Toulouse in 2019 as a partner club of Dumbéa to train new apprentices. In all, there are twelve today working in metropolitan France, at different levels. “A thirteenth will leave in January”, adds Taofifenua Falatea, president of the URCD.

“Here, everything is to be developed”

Himself born in Futuna, this former winger played in France in the early 2000s and was a technical officer of the French Rugby Federation (FFR). He is also the eldest of a brotherhood of rugby players and the father of Yoram Moefana, international center of Bègles-Bordeaux. Nourished by these experiences, he wants to participate in structuring a New Caledonian rugby which has only 1,000 licensees. “Here, everything is to be developed”, he emphasizes.

URC Dumbéa has opened a rugby school and is working to create a training center. “Adapted” to the context. “We are not a professional club”, insists Taofifenua Falatea. But the partnership with ASM also aims to perfect the training of local educators, including at a distance via videoconferences. The planned center could also accommodate young people from Wallis-and-Futuna and complement the work of the pole for the elite of 16-18 year olds opened in 2017 by the FFR, also in Dumbéa.

In metropolitan France, these young people from around the world are not completely disoriented. They find the players who left New Caledonia earlier and the children of the pioneers of the 1990s. Peato Mauvaka had been welcomed by the family of Selevasio Tolofua, his partner from Toulouse Stadium with also Polynesian roots. But he did not forget Dumbéa and the leaders of the club who saw him start. ” I amsuper close to them ”, he slips by SMS. During the summer holidays, when he returns to New Caledonia, he keeps in shape at the Koutio sports park. Where it all began for him.



Rugby, the Toulouse stadium doubles the stake

They did it. Even more than redone. The double European Cup-French Championship offered to the Toulousans by beating La Rochelle in a Top 14 final while mastering skill, Friday June 25, is certainly not a novelty for the club of the pink city. The Toulouse Stadium had already performed a double performance in 1996, the year in which the European trophy was born. But it was another time, another less demanding rugby, without the English clubs that year in the continental competition. And the two finals were six months apart, the European round then taking place in early January.

Rugby: Toulouse stadium European champion after an intense fight

A taste of unfinished business

Suffice to say that for Toulouse, this first double had a slight taste of unfinished business. Since then, the club has been chasing a really meaningful repetition. In vain. The Reds and Blacks had reigned over Europe again in 2003, 2005 and 2010, but without being able to triumph in those years also on their land. Worse: it was Toulon, in 2014, with its armada of stars, who had won the day. Something to titillate Toulouse pride.

But they had to wait, the valiant Toulousains, before they could touch the Grail. The first time to rebuild their health, they who, after so many successful years, experienced the bottoming out in 2017, twelfth in the Top 14 and therefore deprived of Europe the following year, a unique snub since the creation of the continental event. An accident, without a future. Because in Toulouse, the bad times could not last. It is the reverse which is registered on the local charter: here, “We come, we win and we go! “, as the supporters sing.

Of which act. A group was rebuilt, from 2018, with a new president, Didier Lacroix, appointed a year earlier, a manager, Ugo Mola, faithful to his principles of playing in motion, and effective recruitment, with among others the twirling scrum half Antoine Dupont, the electric South African winger Cheslin Kolbe or the impressive New Zealand third row Jerome Kaino. With the support of a few young shoots trained at the club such as Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos, the intense collective was quick to retouch the excellence. The national title in 2019 was a good sign of the comeback.

Winning above all

This year, it is almost the same who went to get the shield of Brennus. Eleven fellows in the field against La Rochelle were already there in 2019. A well-established affair, all in demonstration against Rochelais undoubtedly lacking experience for their first Top 14 final. fault, holding the game from start to finish. So certainly, the Toulousains did not enjoy, in a part anyway wrung out by the rain in the second half.

But it is also their trademark. The Rouge et Noir often air the game, adepts of the open sea and beautiful flights, and it is no coincidence that they have the best attack this season (92 tries scored). But when the matches come in the final stages, if the situation demands it, they also know how to win without glitter. Victory, first and foremost. During their unfailing domination, they had lined up four titles between 1994 and 1997 without scoring more than one try per final. In 2011, they were champions by settling for five penalties (15-10 against Montpellier). And just one more the following year to win against Toulon (18-12). The success against La Rochelle – three penalties, two drops – therefore only continues the series. Who never ceases to lie down. History will remember that Toulouse scored a 21e title to his record out of 28 finals played. Efficiency still proven.



Rugby: Toulouse Stadium European champion after an intense fight

Rugby is a combat sport. The enunciation of this fundamental aspect of the discipline often offends the enthusiasms of lovers of beautiful getaways, of a spectacle as unbridled as it is exciting. But when the stake in addition is enormous, it is often this debate of the big arms which takes the top on the mad cavalcades of the back lines. And it was obviously immense, the stake of this Franco-French continental final Saturday, May 22 in Twinckenham between the two Stades, Toulouse and Rochelais.

The Toulousains were aiming for a fifth star for their jersey, a record since the creation of the competition in 1996. The Rochelais were hoping for a first line on their record, them the novices at these heights. It is the Toulouse people in the end who get their hands on this trophy (22-17), eleven years after their last victory, to experience in a way, even if on the meadow only the Occitan rear Maxime Médard was weighted with the memory. of the win in 2010. But it was terribly hard, terribly bitter, in a small chopped game by faults, stoppages to heal the warriors.

A fatal red card

An intense match, the game let go sparingly, defenses starving, stifling any hint of construction. This final was actually played on a fatal outburst, after half an hour in the first half. The Fijian center of La Rochelle, Levani Botia, is carried away on a tackle, his shoulder hitting in full swing the head of Maxime Médard. The sanction, after video verification, falls and changes the course of the match: red card. At 14 to 15, the case becomes extremely complicated for the Atlantic.

And the second half comes to confirm what was in a hurry. The Toulousains, while tactical intelligence, wait until they find the opening, score a first try and then take a ten point lead. The Rochelais to the end do not give up, astounding courage, even coming back to five points five minutes from the end. But weary. Valor cannot do everything, and the most astonishing team of this European campaign, victorious in particular in the semi-final of the Irish of Leinster (32-23) at the end of a monstrous game, remains at the dock, dreams drowned.

→ Portrait Vincent Merling, the guardian president of the Rochelle temple

The Toulousains follow the coronations won against French teams. If we except their first kidnapped against Cardiff, the Reds and Blacks won in 2003 against Perpignan with a similar score, then against Stade Français in 2005 and against Biarritz in 2010.

A great reward for Ugo Mola, the Toulouse strategist

The success of this Saturday confirms in any case the good health of hexagonal rugby. He offers a major title to the golden generation of Stade Toulouse who, from scrum half Antoine Dupont to opener Romain Ntamack, through back Thomas Ramos, also make the heyday of the Blues. It also recognizes the success of Ugo Mola, the Toulouse coach.

Arrived in the pink city in 2015 to replace the iconic Guy Novès, the former player remained upright in his boots during the turmoil of the first years, when the Toulouse Stadium seemed to run in vain after its former glory. Faithful to his principles, favoring training and offshore rugby, Ugo Mola, with the support of the leaders, won by removing the title of champion of France in 2019, and this European trophy that the club had been chasing for a decade.

At 48, he became the second coach to win the European Cup as a player (in 1996) and as a coach. And the party may not be over. Toulouse leads the Top 14, with a short lead over La Rochelle. A revenge to come, soon, in the French championship?

→ Survey The puzzle of multi-sports cities