Close to qualifying for the Final Four of the Golden League, the obligatory first stage of a crazy summer, the French women’s team is dealing with rather difficult travel and training conditions.
Les Bleues, who won Bosnia-Herzegovina for the second time in as many matches played against this team in the Golden League, signed on for a third consecutive success in the group stage of the competition. A full of victories that allow them to see the future more calmly as the last four of the competition now reach out to them. To cement this favorable position and definitely qualify for the final phase of the Golden League, the French team still has one last match left against Spain on Saturday, which the French also dominated ten days ago.
Except that the meeting this time takes place in Spain, in Valladolid, where Blue arrived late Monday night around noon. 21.30 after a trip of … 17.00! “We left Tuzla at 4 o’clock by bus to Sarajevo. We had to drive about three hours, then we took a plane to Istanbul. Those were the only possible connections. We changed seats. Flight to Istanbul-Madrid and we still had 2.30 of bus in steps to arrive at 9.30pm in Valladolid “, says the center and the dean of the team Isaline Sager-Weider. Far from the comfort that other choices enjoy, in other sports, our volleyball representatives have to adapt constantly and with very little human and financial resources to reorganize in an emergency.
Harsh working conditions in Bosnia
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an offensive against Ukraine, promising to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” the neighboring country. Since this sad date, sporting sanctions have rained down on Russian teams, athletes and women, erased from the competitions they participated in. “The outbreak of war mixed all the chickens, the whole organization, the available aircraft,” explains Isaline Sager-Weider. Bulgaria. But Bulgaria took advantage of Russia’s exclusion to join the VNL. Instead of returning to France and then leaving to play in Spain, we do the whole week in Spain. “
In recent years, the French Confederation (FFVB) has made the human and material resources available to allow Les Bleues to develop. But traveling around Europe also sometimes involves rubbing shoulders with less favorable conditions than those available elsewhere, especially with our closest European neighbors. Latest example? Tuzla, Bosnia. The day after a third success in three matches, the Blues were back in training in a room where they did not enjoy optimal comfort for high-level training. “We stayed one more day so they gave us what they could,” Isaline Sager-Weider said.
“The gym where we played the match was of good quality, completes the key. Afterwards you feel that it is a little less modern. The gym, which they gave us afterwards, it was the university gym for training. There were holes in the floor, such things. But we were on the day after a match. We did circuit training, small ball games, without taking risks, without jumping. “
From the height of her 33 years and her decade of seniority on the French team, Isaline Sager-Weider has seen others: “I remember qualifying with Magali Magail (former coach of the French team between 2014 and 2017) in Israel, I think it was in 2015, if I remember correctly.They put us in rooms that looked like prison rooms, we had cockroaches on the way out … We were all sick after eating, we even wondered “if it was not done on purpose. We took it more as a strength than anything else. There we are far from all that. People have to adapt and it shows that it is not as easy as it is in other countries.”
This obstacle course would ultimately allow France to win the only ticket to the League of Nations 2023, a competition that brings together the world’s best volleyball players, where it would face the best nations a year before the Paris Olympics. To do this, Les Bleues must finish in first or second place in the Golden League Final Four at the end of June and then win the Challenger Cup at the end of July in Croatia.