The Olympic volleyball champions visit “L’Équipe” before the World Championship

That’s what it means to be the darling of your sport: you can afford to miss the plane, certainly very early in the morning from Montpellier, and therefore skip the visit to The Team and not find many people to reproach him for it. Sacred Earvin Ngapeth who therefore left (Stephen Boyer also had a missed takeoff) his friends from the France team to ensure the meeting with subscribers of The Teamhosted by Messaoud Benterki, journalist for the L’Équipe channel, this Tuesday at the group’s headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine).

Not all practitioners but all enthusiasts, readers have, for a good hour and a half, expressed their admiration for Barthélémy Chinenyeze, Benjamin Toniutti, Antoine Brizard, Jean Patry and Jenia Grebennikov; the rest of the troupe being busy with photo, video and interview sessions.

“We must have three to four weeks of rest. We fit four days here and there. It’s complicated for our companions, we are used to it”

Benjamin Toniutti, father of two daughters

Three days after a sparkling success against Brazil (3-0), Saturday in a friendly in Montpellier, and on the eve of flying to Ljubljana (Slovenia) where the Olympic champions start the World Cup on Friday against Germany, the first question focused on the cadence of an infernal calendar. And in particular how to manage personal life and holidays. “We must have three to four weeks of rest. We fit four days here and there. It’s complicated for our companions, we are used to it, “ answers Benjamin Toniutti, father of two daughters. “We are happy to come to the France team to win medals, that’s the motivation”adds the ferryman, international since 2010.

Not the last to say a good word, “Babar” Chinenyeze responds tit for tat when asked the duration of his longest vacation: “Three months in the Covid period! » After winning the League of Nations on July 24 (3-2 against the United States), the Blues benefited from ten days off before resuming preparation for the World Cup. “The staff of the France team is more understanding than the clubs, which really abuse”gauge Antoine Brizard, licensed passer at Piacenza in Italy.

“Andrea (Giani) had this respect not to touch the spirit of the team. You have to leave the team free, if you want to lock people up, it doesn’t work.

Italy, the country of origin of Andrea Giani (52), new coach of the French since last March following the surprise departure of the Brazilian Bernardo Rezende. Legendary player, Giani has the intelligence to respect the French specificity. “Andrea had this respect not to touch the spirit of the team. You have to leave the freedom to the team, if you want to lock people up, it doesn’t work. Andrea is in the exchange, listening, but leaves us our freedom “, appreciates Jean Patry. While bringing its Italian touch, mixed with increased video analysis, stats and a certain lifestyle too. “Like when the doc removes the Nutella for breakfast! But it makes us win too ”pretends to complain about Chinenyeze.

Benjamin Toniutti in the middle of a signing session with our subscribers. (B. Paquot/The Team)

Triple world champion as a player (1990, 1994, 1998), Andrea Giani also knows how to tickle the competitive instincts of the Blues. Captain Toniutti understood this well: “No doubt to sting us, he told us, you won the League of Nations but this team never achieves two results in a row. » Reference in particular to 2021, when, in the wake of the Olympic title in Tokyo, the Blues stumbled in the round of 16 of the Euro (3-0 defeat against the Czech Republic). “To chain that made little sense, especially after such a victory, there is a mental, physical decompression”believes Jean Patry. “At the Euro, when it was really necessary to move, there was no more energy. We were all burnt out”, adds the pointed Milan. Especially since as Brizard slips: “I had never considered winning gold. You can’t imagine it being more beautiful. »

“The double at the Paris Olympics, we dream of it, but if we don’t do it, we say to ourselves that whatever happens we will have already had that (the victory at those in Tokyo)”

Perhaps the double in Paris in 2024, right? “We dream of it, but if we don’t do it, we tell ourselves that whatever happens we will have already had it”continues the best player in the world 2021. What about the possible pressure of being expected, what is more at home? “We don’t feel that pressure, it’s always a pleasure to perform in front of our public”replies Antoine Brizard. “The public is a weapon for us. We got show players like Earvin (NGapeth), who needs to play with the public. It transcends us”abounds Jean Patry.

Another element of the performance of the Blues of volleyball: the strength of the collective. “We felt a shift during the qualification for the Olympics in Berlin (in January 2020). As soon as we score a point, everyone pushes in the same direction, even the substitutes.rewinds Antoine Brizard. “Our biggest strength is the team. The Yavbou team had been built since the days of the CNVB (the national center). This identity has remained, has been refined. If we have something different, it’s not so much the technique but more the feeling.”dissects Patry. “The characteristic of a lot of French teams is to be all different, but we all accept each other, we understand each other”says Brizard. “Competition is healthy. It’s important competition in a team, you have to know how to manage it “continues Patry, son of Christophe, former international.

With the exception of Stéphen Boyer and Earvin Ngapeth, who were excused, the entire France group responded to our invitation on Tuesday. (B. Paquot/The Team)

With the exception of Stéphen Boyer and Earvin Ngapeth, who were excused, the entire France group responded to our invitation on Tuesday. (B. Paquot/The Team)

Patry is not the only “son of”, there is also Kevin Tillie (whose father, Laurent, left his post as coach after the Olympic coronation), Yacine Louati, Earvin Ngapeth or even Jenia Grebennikov, whose father became a coach. “But I don’t want to have that life”, assures the libero when comes the question of after-volleyball. This father of two boys slips with his eternal smile: “I made children so that they would become footballers! »

Nice word at the end of a rich exchange punctuated by applause. And thanks from Laurent Prud’homme, CEO of the L’Équipe group: “Thank you for coming, thank you also for your tribute to Xavier Richefort, which really touched us. » After the death of the former smuggler and volleyball commentator on the L’Équipe channel on July 22, the French had worn a t-shirt with his first name during the final phase of the League of Nations.

The wacky challenge to volleyball players

Never the last to joke, Xavier would have appreciated the crazy sequence initiated by the duo of the Petite Lucarne, Pierre-Antoine Damecour and Béric Pierre-Louis. The friends challenged the volleyball players: “In 2019, we challenged them on their home turf, we blew ourselves up. There, we want our revenge on ours. »

Namely: shooting contest on a mini basketball hoop where we understood why Kevin Tillie chose volleyball and not basketball, like his brothers Kim and Killian. Table tennis game, where Benjamin Toniutti defends himself pretty well. Darts competition with Chinenyeze, who remained zen in front of the Damecour filouterie. Jean Patry manages to juggle a soccer ball.

Not one-armed either in the arm wrestling intended to decide between the ex aequo. To know the identity of the winners: go to Greg’s Team, this Thursday on the L’Équipe channel. Who, the next day, will broadcast the new epic of volleyball players. Who now have their napkin ring in the canteen of The Team.

The Olympic volleyball champions visit “L’Équipe” before the World Championship