September 26, 2023

The banner hangs immediately beneath the central staircase of the elegant lodge, which was donated to the French ladies’s workforce for the World Cup. Herve Renard needed to ensure none of his workforce missed it.

The motivating phrases that adorn it are typical of groups that rally earlier than main sports activities tournaments. However for this French workforce, and for its much-travelled coach Renard, the phrases have a particular which means after a interval that many within the workforce would somewhat overlook.

“Solely a workforce spirit,” it says, “can assist you notice your goals.”

Renard used the phrase when he first met the French workforce earlier this yr, only a few months earlier than the World Cup. It got here shortly after he was chosen to switch sacked coach Corinne Diacre, however even then he knew the message might resonate with a workforce that even her personal federation felt had been “destroyed” past restore.

“We lacked unity,” Renard mentioned in an interview on the sunny terrace in entrance of the workforce’s base camp final week. This was maybe the largest understatement in ladies’s soccer.

France arrived in Australia this month as World Cup favorites on the mend. Torn aside by bitter feuds, in latest months he has misplaced gamers, taken them again, after which misplaced them once more. Coaches have modified, approaches have modified and ways have modified. And now she’s requested Renard, a revered 54-year-old with a titled males’s world champion however no earlier expertise teaching ladies, to take him not less than to the semi-finals.

Based on him, he started the method by overtly speaking about what he didn’t know.

“All the things was new for me as a result of I didn’t know ladies’s soccer, easy methods to handle ladies,” he mentioned. “I used to be fortunate as a result of in our state there have been already lots of people working with ladies’s soccer. So I listened.”

What he inherited was a gifted workforce in disarray. Its longtime chief Wendy Renard (no relation to Hervé) introduced that she wouldn’t play within the World Cup so as to protect her psychological well being. The opposite two stars adopted go well with, saying they’d not return except there was a change in workforce management.

There had been earlier disagreements beneath Diacre, then supervisor, however nothing that severe or existential. The rebellious temper become open insurrection.

Confronted with a disaster forward of the World Cup, the French Soccer Federation took motion, saying after a short investigation that Diacre needed to depart. Based on the federation, the hole between her and the workforce has develop into so vital that it has “reached the purpose of no return.”

Herve Renard, who has loved a profitable and profitable profession as a touring coach in Saudi Arabia, mentioned he acted impulsively when the information broke. He contacted Jean-Michel Aulas, one of the highly effective males in French soccer and a board member of the French federation. Renard met him ten years in the past when he nearly grew to become the coach of the Lyon males’s workforce. He advised Aulas that he needed to be thought of for the opening.

This promised a big change in the middle of his profession. Renard mentioned that till the second he took his telephone to textual content Aulas, he had solely as soon as considered teaching ladies: a flight of fancy that got here to his thoughts whereas watching France play on the final World Cup. Then his curiosity, he mentioned, lasted “perhaps only a few seconds.”

However now that his curiosity in teaching the ladies’s workforce has been reciprocated for the primary time, he is confronted with an issue. To simply accept the job, he wanted permission from soccer officers in Saudi Arabia, the place he had a contract, and he wanted to simply accept a big pay reduce. Working in Saudi Arabia, Renard defined with a smile, paid not less than “20 instances” what he would earn teaching French ladies.

“Once you’re in Saudi Arabia, it is not precisely like that,” he mentioned. “So typically it is good to come back again to actuality.”

Months later, Renard mentioned he nonetheless could not clarify why he threw his hat into the ring earlier than trying on the French coat of arms on the left breast of his tracksuit. As he has coached 5 different nationwide groups, he mentioned, the possibility to steer the nation he was born in was clearly an enormous draw. However even then, some issues, in accordance with Renard, can’t be defined. “I nonetheless don’t know why precisely I made a decision that,” he mentioned.

Renard is upbeat about his uncommon teaching feat at two World Championships in the middle of a yr. “A very powerful factor is to not take part in two world championships in six months,” he mentioned. “One thing to do” in them.

Of all of the groups Renard has coached, his present roster is ranked #1 within the rankings, #5 on the planet, a excessive profile that he has maintained regardless of by no means reaching the semi-finals of a serious match. Renard mentioned that now it’s doable.

“Now we have to consider in ourselves,” he mentioned.

He was ordered to achieve the semi-finals, he mentioned, a aim he accepted. “We will not come right here whenever you’re world quantity 5 and say, ‘Oh no, a quarter-final will probably be sufficient.’ No. We should have a really excessive problem. Subsequently, our first aim is to achieve the semi-finals. Then we’ll discuss different issues.”

Renard has solely had just a few months to rebuild a fractured roster, instill the workforce spirit his banner calls for and he believes his gamers must win what he sees as essentially the most aggressive Girls’s World Cup in historical past.

At his first coaching camp, Renard advised the workforce that he was not considering what occurred previously. He did not need to discuss previous video games, previous feuds, previous grudges – all of the issues that made the camp environment so poisonous that stars like Wendy Renard mentioned they would not need to play for France in any respect. However he could not assist however face one ultimate controversy earlier than the match.

Heira Hamraoui, a talented and gifted midfielder and common for the nationwide workforce, was attacked by masked males in 2021 after a dinner along with her membership Paris Saint-Germain. The fallout had repercussions for each the membership and the nationwide workforce, with former teammate from each groups, Aminata Diallo, being charged with involvement within the assault, and others outraged by Hamraoui’s preliminary claims that they or individuals they knew had been additionally concerned.

The unusual episode eclipsed the nationwide workforce for greater than two years. Confronted with a resurgence of him within the French camp, Renard mentioned he had determined to not take Hamraoui to the World Championships and advised her in a private assembly why she wouldn’t be chosen.

He mentioned he advised Hamrawi that she was not going to begin and that a spot on the bench can be unsettling for a participant of her expertise. “I believe for the sort of participant you begin within the high 11, in any other case it’s very tough to sit down on the bench,” he mentioned. “We will not go forward within the competitors if we do not have improbable workforce spirit.”

Renard acknowledged that not each selection he made can be the suitable one. However he mentioned he was open together with his gamers about what he knew and what he did not.

“I advised the women: “Possibly I’ll make some errors. If I say one thing fallacious, simply let me know.” However step-by-step you study to handle,” he mentioned.

His gamers in the meanwhile say they’re listening to the suitable issues. “He retains pushing us to be one of the best variations of ourselves,” midfielder Grace Geyoro mentioned in a latest interview. Wendy Renard mentioned: “If everybody has the identical imaginative and prescient and want to maneuver in the identical path, we will obtain one thing nice.”

The World Cup comes with the largest give attention to ladies’s soccer within the historical past of the game, with groups and gamers utilizing the platform to realize better recognition and rewards for his or her efforts. FIFA, soccer’s international governing physique, has greater than tripled its prize cash from 4 years earlier to $110 million. His critics have mentioned the brand new determine would not go far sufficient, that it must be the identical because the $440 million prize cash awarded to the lads on the 2022 World Championships in 2022.

Herve Renard acknowledged the progress made by ladies’s soccer, particularly because the final World Cup. However, maybe controversially, he mentioned “ladies nonetheless should be slightly affected person” in relation to pay.

As curiosity continues to develop, so will the potential earnings, he mentioned. However the industrial actuality, he says, is mirrored in varied sports activities revenues, and he supplied an analogy to make clear his level.

“If in case you have one restaurant with 1,000 meals within the evenings and one with 300, it is not the identical factor,” he mentioned. “On the finish of the night time, the register is just not the identical quantity. Soccer is identical. It is a enterprise.”

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