After much preparation, the Bleues finally set foot on English soil on Tuesday, five days before entering the Euros’ race, taking up residence in a comfortable red-brick base camp in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in the green setting, in the middle of the fields.
“It’s a ‘mixed feeling’ between great excitement and calm,” summed up midfielder Kenza Dali once in England. “The competition for some starts tomorrow (Wednesday), we will take the time to settle in, get our bearings and by Sunday we will be ready. »
While awaiting the game against Italy in Rotherham on Sunday (9pm) Les Bleues have left their bags an hour’s drive south at Champneys Springs in Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Central England), a quiet and cozy resort in the Leicestershire countryside.
“This is our Clairefontaine in England! ‘ laughs Eve Perisset, future Chelsea right-hand side, referring to the French team’s historic training center at the Yvelines, which the Blues left after three and a half weeks of preparation.
The entrance to the premises sets the scene: a narrow street crosses a cornfield to a modern country house in “so British” red brick, adorned with a swimming pool with large windows.
A stone’s throw from the spas that make the place famous, the practice area dedicated to Les Bleues is located within the extensive park that surrounds the hotel.
“We see the quality of the pitch, it’s really incredible,” enthuses Perisset. “It’s English quality, the facility is always good,” smiled Dali, ex-West Ham, now at Everton, after Tuesday’s training session.
For the first session in England, Corinne Deacon had a full group as Wendie Renard, Grace Geyoro and Sakina Karchaoui, all injured during preparation, returned to the collective.
The first afternoon at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, between Birmingham and Nottingham, allowed the French to visit all the available facilities (meeting rooms, weight room, spa, etc.) without already having all the sites.
“It’s big, it’s a bit of a maze!” We get lost easily, but we’re good,” smiled young Parisian Sandy Baltimore.
The accommodation part, which according to the FFF has “almost 90 rooms”, will not be accessible to external customers, but they can use the care center and the restaurant, especially during the day.
Not the first choice
Champneys Springs, in the heart of the National Forest, was not management’s first choice. He had his sights set on another base camp, also offered in the UEFA catalogue, but had to abandon it for a surprising reason.
“At some point we decided on one that was top. Except that we learn that during two-thirds of the time we do internships there, weddings would be taking place. It’s just not possible,” explained Corinne Deacon in May and underlined the “possibilities of oxygen supply” in Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
Apart from the training, the atmosphere will be conducive to relaxation with possible walks in the large park, around the lake, the possibility of resting in the individual rooms, all equipped with a balcony or a small terrace, and moments of conviviality between the players be.
According to Selma Bacha, the preparatory course was enlivened by boisterous board game parties.
“We play Werewolves all the time (from Thiercelieux, editor’s note). During the night the werewolves rise up and have to kill other villagers. In the end you have to find out who the wolves are. But there are too many scammers! said the young man from Lyon in preparation, denouncing Hawa Cissoko and Kenza Dali with a big laugh.
Things will get serious for Les Bleues on Sunday against Italy in Rotherham. They play the entire first round at New York Stadium, a stadium with less than 12,000 seats, or even the quarter-finals if they finish at the top of their Group D.