A record of licensees but weaknesses... Three years after the World Cup in France, where is French women's football?

A record of licensees but weaknesses… Three years after the World Cup in France, where is French women’s football?

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On the occasion of the start of the European Championship, on July 6 in England, we offer you a series of articles devoted to women’s football. This Wednesday, the third part is devoted to the situation of the discipline in France, which is booming despite the brakes of the Covid years.

Watch the first episode: “We have everything to succeed”, assures Clara Matéo, the Swiss army knife of the France team

And the second: Why are there so few coaches in women’s football?

Whether we are talking about football, rugby or canicross, the creed remains the same: international competition at home would necessarily be a magnet for practitioners. It is with this firm conviction that the president of the FFF Noël Le Graët announced in West France end of April 2019: “I think that after the World Cup, we will not be far from 300,000 licensees. There were then 179,000.

The Women’s World Cup ended two and a half months after this prophecy, with a frustrating defeat for Les Bleues against the future American winners, during a quarter-final at the Parc des Princes followed by 11.8 million viewers. Three years later, as the English Euro begins this Wednesday, the prediction of the boss of the “3 F” has not come true. At the end of June, football France officially had 209,692 licensees out of a total of 2.1 million. Including 168,789 players, the 40,000 and some remaining counting leaders, educators and educators but also referees.

16% more graduates in one year

Le Graët’s optimism certainly resembled the good old Coué method. But in defense of the Breton leader, an intruder, nanometric in size, has meanwhile turned the world upside down, and not just that of women’s football. The coach of Les Bleues Corinne Deacon explains:

“After 2019 was complicated, with these two years of Covid, so it is very difficult to draw a post-World Cup assessment. Women’s football is evolving, but with the Covid, there have been championships at a standstill, a drop in numbers, even if today they are clearly increasing. »

The Federation communicates on an increase of “16% compared to last season”. “Never has the FFF registered so many licensees”, she asserts, highlighting “the feminization plan launched in 2012 by President Noël Le Graët”, which “has made it possible to double the number of dismissed girls or women [moins de 90.000 en 2010-2011]. »

So, what does women’s football look like in France, three years after “its” World Cup? Let’s start with the showcase, rather flashy, even if the Blue, third in the FIFA rankings, have still not won a major title, unlike the youth teams. OL have just recovered “its” Champions League and PSG to break the bank in order to extend its star Marie-Antoinette Katoto, for a monthly salary estimated at 50,000 euros.

But between “the nobility” (Lyon and Paris) and the “Third Estate” (almost all the other teams), the gap is only widening. In March, The team estimated the average gross monthly salary of a player at 12,000 euros at OL and 9,000 euros at PSG, but at 2,000 euros or less for a member of seven of the 12 elite teams. And still we are only talking about beneficiaries of a federal contract (as in National for boys) while many D1 footballers keep an amateur status.

The D1 overtaken by the competition?

“While he was ahead, the French championship is overtaken by the English and Spanish, even Italian Leagues, which are professionalizing more quickly”, observes Quebecer Jessica Silva, coach of FC Metz (D2). It is in this context that the FFF in December 2021 drew the commission for high-level women’s football, of which the Lyon pioneer Jean-Michel Aulas took the helm in February.

While the elite thinks, below, it is agitated. “For years, women’s football looked like an inverted pyramid, like futsal still today, observes Vincent Nolorgues, president of the Amateur Football League (LFA), which depends on the FFF. There was high level, without having the low. »

The Covid slowed down but did not stop the expansion of women’s football in France after the 2019 World Cup. The Blues of Wendie Renard and Corinne Deacon stopped in the quarter-finals, beaten by the United States. – Franck Fife / AFP

But little by little, the base widens. “The 2019 World Cup did not bring a huge influx of licensees because we were already on a significant progression, which continued, continues the leader of the LFA. During the Covid, there was a little less slowdown for girls than for boys. And this season, the improvement is even more pronounced among women, with increases of almost 25% in certain Leagues. »

Admittedly, a post-lockdown catch-up effect partly explains these local explosions. But progress is sometimes also linked to long-term work. If the FFF “recommends” to have girls play with each other as much as possible (mixing is prohibited above the U14s), the district of Tarn-et-Garonne has made the bet to develop only female teams.

The Tarn-et-Garonne, pioneer district

“The idea germinated in the head of the departmental technical adviser Daniel Tristan in 2014, explains the president Jérôme Boscari. We started from the observation that the mix was interesting when the young girls had the physical and technical qualities to be able to play with the boys. But to develop the mass, they had to play with each other. »

Difficult for a child not endowed with an innate talent to interfere in a predominantly male team, alongside sometimes not very benevolent teammates and with a coach who is in no hurry to align her. With hindsight, Jérôme Boscari draws a very positive conclusion. “We increased the female workforce by 30% in the first two years and by 20% in the third. This continued to progress after the 2019 World Cup. Today, out of 9,990 licensees, we have 900 girls. »

“If we hadn’t stopped the mix, we wouldn’t have a team in D2 [Montauban]which has been able to structure itself and develop skills in the service of women’s football, ”continues the Tarn-et-Garonne leader. However, “the very best win by playing in mixed teams”, assures Vincent Nolorgues. “The mass of little girls is not yet sufficient for the level to be very high. The best have all gone through the mix. »

Loyalty more complicated for girls

This is the case of the international Clara Matéo: “I played with boys until I was no longer allowed, at 15 years old. By necessity, for lack of girls’ teams nearby, but also because it was going very well, ”recalls the midfielder or attacker of Paris FC. The 24-year-old player has been able to see how far she has come since her debut in the mid-2000s. “When I started at 8 years old in Sainte-Luce-sur-Loire [Loire-Atlantique]I was the only girl in my club. Now there are women’s teams in almost every age category. »

Progress is real, but fragile. Our interlocutors indicate “the strong cohesion in the training of girls”. A quality of course, but which can jeopardize the sustainability of a team when two or three players decide to stop, or a coach leaves the club. The loss is also more pronounced than in boys after the baccalaureate and for those who are in higher education.

However, the wagon seems to be on the right track, and a good course for the Bleues during the English Euro can only favor the intention of the FFF: to reach 250,000 licensees at the end of the mandate of Noël Le Graët, in 2024. 300,000 mentioned by “NLG” in 2019, we will wait a little longer.

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