Sunday, July 17, on the field of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, northeast of Birmingham (England), the footballers of the France team train. Smiles are on everyone’s face on the eve of the last match of the group stage of the Euro (from July 6 to 31), the Blue being already assured of their qualification for the quarter-finals.
During the session, defender Griedge Mbock pretends to pass the ball to striker Kadidiatou Diani, before faking her, then gently chambering her. Ordinary scene? Without a doubt. However, apart from the national team, the first plays at OL while the second evolves at PSG, in other words in the two “enemy” clubs of D1.
Until recently, relations between Lyonnaises and Parisiennes were more tense when they were united in the France team. The former were almost hegemonic there. During Euro 2013, for example, twelve of the twenty-three players selected by the coach, Bruno Bini, came from the ranks of OL.
“The Lyonnaises had a media influence through their results and their prize list”, remembers Philippe Joly, in charge of goalkeepers and physical preparation between 2007 and 2013 before becoming, between 2017 and 2020, the assistant of the current coach of the Blue, Corinne Deacon.
From now on, the Parisian “accent” is just as present as the Lyonnais “accent”. Among the 23 players taken to England by Corinne Deacon to compete in the Euro, there are five players from PSG. Or as much as those of OL. A first.
The rise of PSG in recent years has changed the situation and largely explains the current rebalancing. Although it has long been OL’s main rival, the capital club took a step forward in 2021 by knocking Lyon off its pedestal in the league, snatching the national title for the first time in fifteen years.
The observation that could prevail in the mid-2010s – “the Parisiennes who arrived had not won anything, nor did they have the same notoriety”, summarizes Philippe Joly – is no longer relevant. With Marie-Antoinette Katoto (who left the Euro on injury), Kadidiatou Diani or Grace Geyoro, “there are more PSG players who have potential to claim Les Bleues”, recognized moreover, before the European competition, Sonia Bompastor, the current coach of OL and ex-international tricolor.
Another factor, and not the least, played in this reduction of Lyon’s “hold” over Les Bleues and the redefinition of internal geopolitics: Corinne Deacon dismissed players like Amandine Henry, Eugénie Le Sommer and Sarah Bouhaddi (the one -ci having withdrawn herself), OL executives.
Officially, this dismissal was done for sporting reasons. In reality, it came to sanction relational incompatibilities. Amandine Henry had publicly expressed, in November 2020, criticism of the management of Corinne Deacon after the 2019 World Cup at home (the Blues had been eliminated in the quarter-finals by the Americans).
“There was less unity”
“Before, there was less unity, more club rivalry, some problems between players, but not necessarily from Paris and Lyon only”, recognized Eugénie Le Sommer, quoted by The Team in November 2019. “Perhaps because I am from Lyon, I thought OL were a bit designated as the bad guy”, added the player, from Lyon since 2010.
At the end of the 2000s, relations had sometimes been cool between the internationals from OL and those who played in Juvisy (Essonne), this club holding a candle to the Lyonnaises – it was six times champion of France between 1992 and 2006 before being absorbed by Paris Football Club (Paris FC) in 2017.
At that time when the women’s first division was even less professional than today, “there may have been small relational problems, admits Philippe Joly. The Lyonnaises had good contracts while some other internationals also worked as cleaners or employees. There was no jealousy, but it put up barriers. It subsided little by little as the players who had results started to sign federal contracts with their clubs. »
The role of Bruno Bini, national coach between 2007 and 2013, was preponderant in the pacification. “There was a majority of Lyonnaises; therefore, when there were confrontations of ideas, there was a little more weight on one side than on the other. But we had a conductor called Bruno Bini,” remembers Gaëtane Thiney, international with 163 caps, who has been playing in a club since 2008 at Juvisy, which has become Paris FC.
A diluted influence
The results obtained under the orders of Bruno Bini also eased tensions. The Habs reached the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup and the London Olympics the following year. “If we hadn’t had these results, we might have continued in this deleterious climate between Lyonnaises and Parisiennes”, agrees Philippe Joly.
Bruno Bini’s successors, Philippe Bergeroo (2013 to 2016) then Olivier Echouafni (2016-2017), continued the work undertaken to maintain unity within the group. “I blew everything up” remembers the second about the organization of meals. “When at dinner you had the largest contingent on one side of the table and the smallest at the other end of the table, it was not ideal for the adaptation and the arrival of new players. It was a little hard at first, some expressed their disagreement, but in the end they almost thanked me for doing it. »
Today, the arrival in the French team of young players born in the 2000s, and who have not known this sometimes difficult cohabitation, has dissipated the antagonisms. Moreover, even if OL and PSG still together provide almost half of the national team, their weight and influence tend to be diluted, with the presence of players from Bordeaux, Paris FC or foreign clubs ( in Spain, England and Italy).
“Here, the club labels remain at the bottom of the stairs”, had warned, in November 2019, Corinne Deacon. Before the Euro, Sonia Bompastor, the coach of OL, for her part invited Lyonnaises and Parisiennes “to contribute all their experience so that France achieves the supreme objective”. That is to say to win a first international title.