Wendie Renard is one of the most famous soccer players in the world. Her withdrawal from France’s national team triggers a wave of resignations. The French protest against the conditions – and join a list of players who no longer want to wait for “equal play”.
“My face may hide the pain, but the heart suffers… and I don’t want to suffer anymore.” Wendie Renard’s words shook the world of women’s football late last week. France captain resigns after 142 caps The defensive icon is followed a little later by the two strikers Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto, and then by Perle Morroni, who last played for the team before the 2022 European Championship. It’s a shock that hits France hard just five months before the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But it is one that did not start in France, but is spreading further and further.
More and more footballers are taking on the circumstances – or rather conditions? – no longer in professional sport. France is the next nation where this becomes evident. Most recently, the Canadian Olympic champions rebelled against their own association – a strike was dropped after the threat of lawsuits worth millions, but the resistance is clear. The US women contested the tedious, year-long legal battle – and in May last year were finally able to celebrate the historic “Equal Pay” in football.
Some of the world champions, such as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, are now pledged their support to Renard. So did the first Ballon d’Or winner in history, Ada Hegerberg. She had taken a break from the Norwegian national team for almost five years because she did not want to accept the imbalance in bonuses between men and women. She wrote to both the French FA and Renard: “How much longer do we have to go on like this to be respected? I’m with you Wendie and everyone else going through the same processes. It’s time to act .”
“I can’t pretend anymore”
It’s not just about money for a long time – even if the discrepancy in the payments between men and women is usually immense. Renard and Co. also make that clear. “I love France more than anything, I’m far from perfect, but I can no longer support the current system, which is far from the requirements required at the highest level,” the 32-year-old wrote on social media . Bonuses are one thing, training and playing conditions, equipment, staff strength, visible further development and appreciation of one’s own association are at least as important. The Canadians, for example, had denounced that their training camp had been shortened, fewer staff could be there – and only 20 players were on site, which did not even allow for an eleven-on-eleven training game.
France international Griedge Mbock, who is currently injured, wrote of her declaration of solidarity with Renard and Co.: “It is time to really look at the gap that exists between the current organization, the expectations that you have and the means that we are given to fight at the highest level.”
Wendie Renard told RMC Sport that she wanted to denounce the slow development of women’s football. “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t pretend anymore. I love this shirt and because I love it I made this decision that hurts personally,” she said. In 2019, the World Cup took place in its own country – as in 2011 after the World Cup in Germany, France also missed out on sustaining the upswing.
That’s how Renard sees it too: “The momentum has broken off,” she says and looks almost enviously at other nations. “When you see Barcelona filling their stadium with 90,000 people, that it works in England… You had a head start on those countries…” The English European champions have been riding a wave of euphoria since winning the title in their own country, in In Spain, the most successful team, FC Barcelona in particular, manages to generate a lot of attention with record attendances. Renard therefore denounces: “We have to shift up a gear if we want to win a title with the French team.”
Disturbed relationship with the trainer
But there is something else that resonates with Renard: the relationship with the trainer. This is also a problem for Renard. Nothing new that she and national team coach Corinne Diacre aren’t best friends – to say the least. Although they seemed to have pulled themselves together at last year’s European Championship. The coach, who caused a stir in 2014 for taking over a men’s second division team, Clermont Foot, is said to have stubbornness and authority. After the World Cup in France 2019, the captain and coach fell out so badly that it took a debate organized by the association president to see Renard reinstated.
“I wanted to have this last exchange with the coach before I announce my decision. My decision was 80 percent certain,” Renard explained her resignation at RMC Sport. “I’ve always said she’s the boss, not me. I don’t aspire to be a coach, I just aspire to perform and put the blue jersey where it belongs, which is at the highest level with the players and the qualities we have. There are many things that need to change and it’s my duty to say that.” According to RMC Sport, Renard will no longer play for France while Diacre is the coach.
“The national team deserves much better”
The woman, who is also known as “the control tower” because of her 1.87 meter height and her playful overview, is not the first to have made this decision for herself. She now received support from former national goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi: “Three years ago I decided to withdraw from the French national team to denounce a situation that was psychologically untenable for me,” she wrote on Instagram. “Today my team-mates are going in the same direction and trying to make a difference again. I want to pay tribute to their courage and give them my full support. The French national team deserves much better.”
There are also other international examples in this respect: 15 Spaniards announced their collective break in September because they no longer want to work with coach Jorge Vilda. Accordingly, the current situation is unbearable, the players see their physical and emotional health impaired. The reason is the alleged lack of qualifications of the 41-year-old, the insufficient training processes for the players and the early exit from the European Championship, reported “El Periodico”. They would therefore not play for Spain “until the situation is reversed”, i.e. the coaching team is relieved of its duties.
The association reacted outraged and backed Vilda – and so some of the world’s best footballers are still not playing for Spain’s team again. Most recently, defender Mapi Leon and Co. were absent from the international phase in the middle of the month. Captain Jennifer Hermoso, who had expressed her solidarity but had not announced a break, had been nominated and used for the Australian Nations Cup games against Jamaica, Australia and the Czech Republic.
Most successful club in the world sticks by Renard
In Spain, there is a clear discrepancy between the clubs in this dispute. The players of FC Barcelona have resigned, they continue to play from Real Madrid. At least one club is already involved in France: the most successful women’s team in the world, Olympique Lyon. The club Renard plays for, who can count on the support of the president and her coach.
“Corinne Diacre has been there for six years, there have been ups and downs,” said orienteering president Jean-Michel Aulas of “L’Equipe”. “I have the impression that we have entered a situation of no return. If you look at the squad of this French team, you can see that they are not at all comparable to the other big European teams. I know that we are the best players Europe, maybe the world, but we can’t get results.” He points out that in addition to the World Cup next year, the Olympic Games will also be held in Paris – and thus in their own country. The association must “take a close look at the situation and make decisions. That seems obligatory to me if you want to respect the messages sent”. Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor also promised Renard full support. “We need to be able to listen at all levels, be it at association or club level, and show that the players have the opportunity to express themselves and find solutions.”
Is the association dismissing Diacre?
This shock is shaking up women’s football in many countries. The disputes are deadlocked, the footballers frustrated, the associations often seem to disregard the interests of the professionals. In France, however, Renard could have initiated a change of power. This Tuesday the association meets at its board meeting. The priority will be decided on the president of the association, Le Graet, against whom investigations are being carried out on allegations of bullying and sexual harassment. He has been out of office since January, but denied the allegations. However, the AFP news agency is already reporting from circles in the Paris Ministry of Sport that Le Graet is no longer sustainable.
The 81-year-old is considered a supporter of Diacres, who only extended their contract until 2024 after the European Championship semifinals against Germany last summer. In response to Renard and Co., the association had announced that “no individual was above the institution of the French national team”. But if Le Graet falls, Diacre’s chair also seems to wobble. Diacre could also prevent a possible dismissal: the journalist Mohamed Toubache-Ter tweeted on Monday that the 48-year-old would announce her resignation at the meeting. So it’s possible that Renard sounded the alarm at just the right moment. This will certainly not solve all the problems in the national team in one go, but it would be a success for the long-time captain. In any case, your words are bloodcurdling. It’s not just about football, it’s about “mental health” and her “suffering heart”.