Business, violence, injuries… French football taken by great discomfort



“It’s not the most peaceful climate I’ve known. » Addressing the last two matches of the Blues before the World Cup in Qatar, this Thursday, September 22 against Austria and Sunday in Denmark, Didier Deschamps regretted having to deal with a series of injuries which deprived him of 12 players, and not the least.

Hugo Lloris, the brothers Lucas and Théo Hernandez, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, and Karim Benzema point in particular to the infirmary. However, it is not these clouds that the coach evokes when speaking of the ” climate “ around his France team, but rather those who have piled up on French football in recent weeks.

A proliferation of sordid affairs

First, the multiplication of sordid cases: the trial in England of former world champion Benjamin Mendy (ten selections), accused of seven rapes between October 2018 and August 2021; attempt “organized gang extortion” of which Paul Pogba was the victim and which earned five of his relatives, including his brother Mathias, an indictment pronounced on September 17; the other indictment, a day earlier, of Aminata Diallo, ex-international (seven selections) and PSG player, suspected of being the sponsor in November 2021 of an attack with an iron bar against her ex – teammate Kheira Hamraoui.

Then, the deep malaise within the French Football Federation (FFF) after the revelations of the magazine SoFoot on the dysfunctions of the institution and cases of sexual harassment involving its president Noël Le Graët, and the war of succession latent between the latter and its general manager Florence Hardouin. A situation justifying the launch of an audit mission of the structure, decided on September 16 by the Ministry of Sports.

If we add to this context the recurring violence in the stands of the stadiums, as before the Europa League Conference match between Nice and Cologne on September 8 (32 injured) or the casual attitude of PSG coach Christophe Galtier and Kylian Mbappé on the environmental issue in the midst of a climate emergency, the accumulation is maddening and sends back a detestable image.

Can we compare it to the depressive state of the community after the scandal of the Knysna slingers at the 2010 World Cup? “The parallel is valid, and what is striking is the very rapid addition of facts that contradict the feeling of a rather healthy football after the coronation of 2018 and the popular success of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.comments Christophe Lepetit, researcher at the Center for Sports Law and Economics in Limoges. Some of them, in any case, raise very deep questions. »

A clear shift on societal issues

The drifts of players unable to cut with their bad associations? “This is not new, and it testifies to the increasingly crazy economic stakes of an environment that inevitably attracts covetousness.points out the economist Pierre Rondeau, co-director of the Sport and Society Observatory at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation. And even women’s football is affected! » Too much money that turns the head of players torn between the injunction not to forget where they come from and that of knowing where they are going.

“We can point to the lack of training and civic education in training centers, which do not teach enough to become citizens, to distinguish right from wrong, to know how to stop when you are told no”also underlines Christophe Lepetit.

At the top of the round ball, the image is not more brilliant, with a Federation appearing more and more disconnected on certain societal subjects. On homophobia, sexism, the environment, federal positions are often very lukewarm. Is it the fault of the captain’s age, 80 for Noël Le Graët? “There may be a generation effect, but more broadly we realize that football is advancing by often relegating societal issues to the backgroundobserves Pierre Rondeau. I imagined that the Covid was going to change the situation. But this summer, transfer window spending has increased again and the outrageously financialized system continues its mad race, preparing for a World Cup in Qatar completely out of step with current concerns. »

The tricolor football crisis is part of a broader questioning. “The great barnum of the World Cup inevitably strikes at a time when we are talking about sobrietyconcludes Christophe Lepetit. It is one more element of a necessary general awareness. The major sports institutions cannot ignore it. They work, for some, to improve. But we should go faster and stronger. »

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Fewer supporters in Qatar

Less support for the Blues in Qatar? If we are to believe the leaders of the Irresistibles Français, the main group of supporters of the France team, they will be only a hundred to follow the Blues at the next World Cup, against 600 at the previous one, in Russia, in 2018 .

In addition to the very high cost of transport and accommodation, and the low tourist interest of the country, some of the supporters also obey a logic of boycott, like François Bonnel, one of the co-founders of the Irresistibles Français. He indicated that he had “decided to condemn this Cup”, assuring that he would not watch the matches on television either.

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