European Team Championships 2004
28-Apr to 01-May, Rennes, France.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
THE MORNING AFTER…
Framboise Gommendy reports from Rennes
37 teams. 23 men’s teams (average 5 players, plus coach, plus…), 14 women’s teams (average 4 players, plus, plus). Organisation. Lots and lots of them. Referees. Volunteers. Press.
|We are a few.
About 350, I was told.
The Hermine Squash Club is buzzing. Tents have been organised, a press office has been built, yes, built, shuttles are coming in and out constantly between the hotels (4 or 5), station, airport, club…
The bar staff are smiling, organised, quick and… French. The food is excellent, the salads are out of this world, the warm food is especially conceived to bring the carbohydrates needed by the players, leaving out the fat nobody needs or wants!
God I love the French!
So many faces I haven’t seen for such a long time, like the French National Coach, André Delhoste, or Albert Medina, who used to be in charge of the Referees when I was involved in French Squash.
I feel 15 years younger. I feel good.
Martin Wren is here of course, ESF Director. “The French have done a good preparation job, and my job will be easy. I’ve already been to this club a few times, I’ve worked with all the people in charge, and I’m quite confident this event will be wonderful.”
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’M NOT THAT BAD…
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….
The Frog goes home…
Framboise Gommendy reports from Rennes
Home … well, not really, since I never went to Rennes in my life, and my home is about 1,000 miles away from there, near Cannes (South East, on the way to Italy)!
Weird really. Here I am, going to France, to cover the European Team Championship for an English site and magazine, therefore in English.
Well, I may also do a report for Planète Squash, the French Magazine, but the site, the immediate result, the pressure, the deadline, is in English. And if you only knew how much harder it is to write in a second language …
And I’m about to meet the new French Federation people. New for me anyway, as the last time I worked for them was in 1990, the second World Open in Toulouse (although the first one I was involved with, in 1986 when Ross Norman beat Jahangir, was the best. To this day, the press and the people present still think Toulouse 86 was the best tournament ever.).
Pauline Filet, the FFSR PR seems extremely efficient, with a lovely voice. I’m sure my English colleagues will enjoy her company and professionalism. She has informed me that the interest is quite important in France, press-wise and TV-wise. She mentioned names that wouldn't ring any bells to you, but trust me, the French Press will be heavily present at this event.
And that’s good to hear!
So far, the only thing I know is that the “English Press” is at a hotel situated about 5 minutes walk from the Hermine Squash Club, where all the pool matches are played. Clever….
I feel that this is going to be a looooooooong week. Reporting about an event is hard enough; pressure, lack of sleep, bla bla bla; but it gets worse when your home country may well play your adopted country in the final.
It’s bad enough in rugby.
But when I think I’ve got a problem, I just think about Linda Charman. It’s even worse for her, as she is soon to marry the French Team's number 5, Laurent Elriani. Talk about a dilemma!!!!
Well, let’s analyse the results.
In 30 years, England have only lost twice (1983 against Sweden, and 1992 against Scotland), which leads me to believe that England actually loses once every ten years.
Therefore, time is up, gentlemen. This is the year!
(no, not ladies, as the English Ladies have NEVER lost).
Or is it? Hmmm.
On paper, England is much stronger than anybody else. But we are playing on French soil, and home support could play a big part.
For once, the French players won’t need my support, the whole audience will do that. So, I may well support the English.
I tell you, somebody deport me!
I'm starting to really like England …