France: French Success Modelled on Belgium

Players from France have landed in droves in the Division d’honneur in recent seasons. An essential and beneficial transhumance for his national team, now at the gates of the world top 10. The Blues now dream of identical exploits and a future as bright as that of the Red Lions.

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Chis weekend, France will punctuate their very first Pro League season, in Antwerp, with 2 duels against elgium. Invited, at short notice, to replace Canada, which had preferred to skip the global competition, due to the global health situation, the 11th world nation has made impressive progress since November 2017 and the taking office of Jeroen Delmee. . The former Red Lions coach (July 2014 to October 2015) led the Blues for almost 4 years and brought them straight into the era of professionalism. “The Dutchman has allowed France to take a step forward,” explains Xavier De Greve, the Belgian T2 of the France team. “He brought with him the semi-professional status for most of the players who were able to invest fully in the program. The presence of a large part of the core players, in Belgium, also made it possible to meet once a week for a double work session and for a collective fitness session on Wednesday morning. He also emphasized individual technique by increasing the demands. The basics are essential in modern hockey. Just as much as tactics or physics. It has thus enabled France to make a huge leap forward. » It has thus enabled France to make a huge leap forward. » It has thus enabled France to make a huge leap forward. »

In December 2018, during the World Cup in Bhubaneswar (India), an article in the French weekly L’Express headlined: “The revival of French field hockey under Belgian infusion”. A photograph of the situation in which one could read an interview with Olivier Moreau, the former president of the French Hockey Federation (FFH), who admitted to having been strongly inspired by the example of the Red Lions. “Teacher-student relations have been established with Belgium. We are experiencing the same problems as them but ten years apart. “A reality shared by Victor Charlet, the captain of the Blues, who has already been playing for 9 seasons at Waterloo Ducks. “The key element of our evolution, and it’s the same in all high-level sports, is obviously professionalization at all levels. Whether during training, physical preparation, coaching or nutrition. We went from being an amateur athlete to a professional one. But it is only thanks to Belgium and the contracts we have received in the Honor Division clubs that this development has been made possible. Without these wages and working conditions, we could not prepare in this way, today. We are not paid to evolve in the France team. Some receive social assistance but it is indeed Belgium that has allowed us to cross these levels. » But it is only thanks to Belgium and the contracts we have received in the Honor Division clubs that this development has been made possible. Without these wages and working conditions, we could not prepare in this way, today. We are not paid to evolve in the France team. Some receive social assistance but it is indeed Belgium that has allowed us to cross these levels. » But it is only thanks to Belgium and the contracts we have received in the Honor Division clubs that this development has been made possible. Without these salaries and working conditions, we could not prepare ourselves in this way, today. We are not paid to evolve in the France team. Some receive social assistance but it is indeed Belgium that has allowed us to cross these levels. »

The Red Lions inspire the Blues

In the French selection this weekend, all of the players selected (19) are also playing today in the Division d’Honneur (also due to the playoffs being played out in France this weekend ). In daily contact with the Red Lions, they have learned to observe and imitate the reigning world and Olympic champions. “Of course the French team has its eyes riveted on what Belgium offers”, recognizes the T2 of the Blues, future coach of the Racing champions. “The Lions have this talent to keep the ball, to dezone, to change lines and to manipulate the game and their opponents. It’s really impressive what they can do. We would be silly not to draw inspiration from it. »

A discourse shared by Victor Charlet who evokes the “Belgian model” with envy. “The Red Lions are still the best in the world today. We were inspired by their tactical side and especially the framework they managed to put in place. This is essential to perform. We have talented players and an offensive team that loves practicing on the counter-attacks. But the structure was an essential element that we had to assimilate. »

However, it is money that definitely remains the sinews of war for France, which has the objective, realistic or not?, of aiming for a podium at the Paris Games in 2024. “Unfortunately, we lost 2 years with the Covid”, still regrets Xavier De Greve. “A medal is, perhaps, too ambitious a goal. Especially with the budget discussions that often punctuate our program. We still have to cut days of preparation to save money. We are at 100 days a year – for training, courses and competitions – while the big nations like Belgium or Australia are around 140 to 150 days. We would like to have about thirty more at our disposal, but it remains complicated. »

The next few months will therefore be decisive for France. Will she find the necessary resources to reach new levels and come and titillate the world’s best at the Olympics? Les Bleus, who claim to be 10 years behind the Belgians, seem to have fully assimilated the lessons and teachings of a neighbor whose success and above all development remain inspiring for many nations in the 4 corners of the planet. In Paris, in 2024, they could therefore create a surprise in a tournament, in an open format, which sometimes leaves room for surprises and exploits.

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