Framboise catches up with some of the
players and organisers in Rennes ...


Céline Lincou is a very soft spoken, gentle and discreet lady, who works as an auditor, and this year, she had 2 big changes in her life: a husband that became the first French player ever to become World number 1, and a baby girl, Jade.

“A baby just fills 100% of your time, you don’t have any time for yourself at all, especially when you keep on working! But as for the number 1 ranking, we just had a bit more attention from the media (Press, TV), but it didn’t change anything at all in our personal lives, apart from the fact that Thierry has got less time for us…”

As usual, I asked her to describe the man of her life with 3 words, and she replied: “Generous, a gourmet, and a fighter”.

May I add: a typical French man…
« Cordiale entente » indeed…

"When I met Laurent Elriani about 4 years ago, I thought he was gorgeous. We have been going out for 2 years now, and the wedding is planned for June."

The red haired English number 2, Linda Charman, is smiling at me. She is obviously a happy lady. And it shows.

"Obviously, when we are in a team event like this one, we both have a tendency to stick to our team, but we still support each other. If France is playing England, I want England to win, but Laurent to win his game.

"I love watching him play, I love his game, he is an attacker. I think he deserves to be much higher in the ranking, but he just doesn’t have enough money to go far away, he can only stick to the European events, where the level is much higher than anywhere else in the world."

I asked the lady what she loved the most about the French way of life: “I like the fact they are expressive, that they get excited about things, that they enjoy their food, their meals. In England, we don’t enjoy our meals that way”.

And what about what she doesn’t like about us?

"That the French get too excited. But on the other hand, I don’t like conservatism. I’m sure that somewhere in between lies the truth."

To finish, I just asked her to describe her future husband:

"Sweet, funny, kind, sensitive, loving, gorgeous… and sexy."

I love the English who love French people who love the English!


Loic Thébault
is the owner of the venue where all the pools are played, and where everybody meets, drinks, chats, plots…

He has been involved in squash since 1981, but in this club for 8 years. With his ex wife Laurence Chevalier, he has made this place a magic enterprise for regular and competition “crème de la crème” players.

“4 years ago, I put the club up for this event, but I was told that the club was a bit small for such an event. Then, in 2001, we organised the European Club Championships, and it was a great success. When Aix en Provence withdrew from the organisation of the Euro 2004, I was skiing.

I received a phone call on my mobile from Bertrand Bonnefoy, from the FFSR who asked me if I wanted to welcome the event in the club. I told him “I need to think about it”, switched off, paused for 3 seconds, and dialled back. “OK” I said.

“We have been working on this event for a year now, and the last month has been extremely hard. Today was the worst day, but now 'tout roule', everything runs smoothly now."

Yes, everything runs smoothly. Everybody arrived, and found their hotels, and ate, and got settled (apart from the luggage from the Austrian team that were still missing at 11pm).

I saw neither England nor Scotland though. Scotland is starting early tomorrow, as they are opening the day, but England don't play until 6.30. I would have thought that the English would be here by now, but no.

I met Grégory for the first time today, and of course, the conversation came to the famous match - Beachill v Gaultier in the 2003 World Team Championships.

“I don’t think the reports from Squash Player and Malcolm Willstrop were fair”, said the very young and passionate French player.

“Yes, I can be noisy and loud sometimes, but it comes from my temperament, and that I dig in to be able to play at the level I’m trying to play. It’s my fault and my strength. But those reports hurt me tremendously, because I don’t see any such reports on other players that are very often out of order or even aggressive on court. So why did they hit on me, and not on the others as well?”

Don’t think for a minute that this young man dwells on the past, but he has been extremely hurt. Did he deserve it? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But one thing is sure. He is young. He is talented. He is cute. He’s got personality. He’s got passion. And you’ll hear about him in the future.

Again and again….

At 25, ranked 13 in the world (the highest French lady player ever), Isabelle carries the French hopes everywhere she goes.

And it’s heavy to carry sometimes. Her coach, Jean Luc Bonetat (father of the former French marvel Julien, the first French player to get in the top 15) is more than a coach. When Isabelle’s mother died when Isabelle was a teenager, he and his wife Marie (owners of the brilliant Squash des Carnaux, in Tours, who saw so many international tournaments, formed so many French players, even me!) took her under their wing, advised her to stop squash for a while in view of passing her commercial diploma to ensure her future after her sporting career. And then, Isabelle came back, with a vengeance.

A few weeks ago, Isabelle got injured while playing against Rebecca Macree in Chicago, and had to retire. She could hardly move her right arm, and did the preparation for the event with the French Team in great pain.

“Three days ago, I couldn’t hit the ball”, the French player told me. “But I had to play for the team, I had to do it, but I’m out of matches. I did a lot of physical preparation, but I haven’t played any matches since Chicago”.

Yes, the pressure was immense, but the little girl (for me, that’s who she is, a little shrimp that used to run everywhere in the club, entering all the empty courts she could find to play with a racquet far too heavy for her) delivered.

Thank you Isabelle.

I was having a chat with the English National Coach before the competition started today, and we came to speak about the reason why the rivalry between France and England is that strong at the moment.

“France is the only European team that has made an immense effort to raise her standard to professionalism in the last 6 years. And also, the perception of what the behaviour can or should be on a squash court is different in the 2 countries. The passion that is sometimes accepted in France would be considered out of place, even out of order in England. It’s a cultural thing!”

When I asked him about the probable final and the very dreaded match between Lee Beachill and Gregory Gaultier (Vienna, the return!), he smiled and said “The match has the potential to blow out of proportion. It’s up to each team to stay dignified, and to remember that, at the end of the day, it’s only a game of squash…”

Hear hear!