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Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan back France Women’s team boycott

Megan Rapinoe questioned how the FFF could let player disenchantment reach the stage where three star players have quit the national team.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 23, 2022 Paris Saint Germain's forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto reacts during an interview as part of the team's preparation for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2022 football tournament in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have pledged their support behind protesting France’s women’s team stars as the French Football Federation (FFF) faced growing pressure to act on the players’ grievances. Captain and star defender Wendie Renard was the first to put her international career on hold on Friday, swiftly followed by forwards Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto. All three called for regime change, with Renard saying the “current system” was “far from the requirements required by the highest level”, and the trio are set to be absent from this year’s Women’s World Cup unless their demands are met.

In response, the FFF said its executive committee would look at the matter on Tuesday, adding: “The FFF would like to serve a reminder that no individual is bigger than the team.” Such a response was hardly what the players would have hoped for, but the FFF will not be able to brush this issue under the carpet.

Stars rally in support of France internationals

Ada Hegerberg and Lucy Bronze backed the striking players on Friday, and US women’s national team luminaries Rapinoe and Morgan have added their voices of support, along with global players’ union FIFPRO. Reacting initially to Renard’s statement, Rapinoe wrote: “With you captain. @FFF what are you doing?” As the protest grew to become a three-player rebellion, Rapinoe posted on Instagram: “Immense respect for these three.”

Morgan wrote: “You know it’s bad when the most capped player/captain can [no] longer support or play for @FFF. My heart hurts for @wendie_renard, @mariekatoto, @kady944 and all their teammates.”

The Women’s World Cup takes place between 20 July 20 and 20 August in Australia and New Zealand, so the French authorities have time to remedy this situation.

Renard has spoken of wanting to protect her mental health. Although she did not name head coach Corinne Diacre, who has overseen a controversial reign, reports claimed Renard would refuse to return if Diacre and her staff remain in place. Renard, a 142-cap veteran, lost the captaincy under Diacre in 2017 but was restored to the leadership in 2021.

Meanwhile, FIFPRO said in a short statement posted on Twitter that it “stands... in solidarity” with the players and their supportive French union, the UNFP. Players should not have to sacrifice their national team careers for change and organisational reform”. The UNFP said the players’ stance was an “extremely courageous cry of alarm... denouncing the gap between the current organisation of this team, their expectations and the resources allocated to meet the current requirements of the very high level”.

It said the players’ outcry “must serve as a catalyst” for institutional change and to speed up the rate of pushing the women’s game forward in France. It is becoming urgent,” said the UNFP. “That all stakeholders finally push in the same direction to accelerate without delay the process under way, which will benefit all, including internationals.”