There was a time. Two years and a few weeks before the Paris 2024 Games, the sports francophonie is waking up and shaking up. Since the beginning of the year, the French-speaking association has created three new sports, including two Olympic ones.
Fencing initiated the movement with the launch of the Alliance Francophone d’Escrime (AFE) in mid-March. Surfing followed, heralding the birth of the UFS. Squash, in turn, found its way into the van with the formation of the Squash and Francophonie Association in early spring.
Another sign: the organization of an exchange seminar in Paris on July 7 and 8,Towards a multilateral and structured sports francophonie“, at the initiative of the International Organization of Francophone Countries (OIF).
President of the Association of Squash and Francophonie, Frenchman Jacques Fontaine, former President of the International Federation (World Squash), answered questions FrancJeux.
FrancsJeux: Why exactly now, in 2022, did you create a French-speaking squash association?
Jacques Fontaine : The idea was in the air for a while. But this required a combination of circumstances. I am currently exempt from certain mandates in international bodies due to the age limit, so I can no longer participate in such an initiative. At the same time, the new president of the African Squash Confederation, Lucky Mlilo, showed enthusiasm for the project. He called me to action. We told ourselves that it was time to organize the Francophonie of Squash.
What is the purpose of this association?
First, to gather people of good will and re-motivate certain French-speaking countries. We then aim to structure activities and practices through training, equipment supply and hosting athletes, coaches and officials. Squash may also accompany the resurgence of sports Francophonie. Twelve sports now have francophone associations, three of which were created this year in just a few weeks.
What does the Francophonie represent today in the world of squash?
Few things. Our sport is led by the British. This control of the Anglo-Saxon world is also a major issue in squash. The Anglo-Saxons seek to control it more than to develop it. At the last Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in 2018, I was able to see for myself how much this event can bring to this sport, especially financially. But the future of squash lies with the development of the practice in non-English speaking countries. French-speaking world, as well as South and Central America and Western China. Francophonie will not solve everything, but it can serve as an impetus for the rest of the world, especially for Latin American countries and China.
Do you suppose that the omnipresence of the Anglo-Saxons hinders the development of sports?
Of course. We have failed five times in a row in our attempt to integrate the Olympic program. This is no coincidence. We won’t get there without further international development. Squash today is not a universal sport. To participate in the world championships, it is enough to have funds to pay for the trip and participation fees. We need to expand the base. In this Francophonie can serve as an example for other peoples.
Do the two worlds, francophone and anglophone, really treat the sports movement differently?
Fully. They are not the same worlds. The English-speaking community is more powerful and developed. But he cannibalizes the sports movement with his vision and methods. Commonwealth, but also the United States. We cannot risk becoming Americans in the broadest sense of the word. This strength of the English-speaking community is one of the challenges of the sport for the future. The Anglo-Saxon model does not necessarily fit all, the hundreds of millions of practitioners in the world.
Can the 2024 Games in Paris contribute to rebalancing?
Absolutely. We can make it a platform. These Games represent a unique opportunity, an opportunity not to be missed. They can be used to energize the sports francophonie, expand its vision and change its position. We must not miss the boat, because such an opportunity will not present itself anytime soon. The world is not only Anglo-Saxon and English-speaking.
How to explain the revival of sports Francophonie?
The prospect of the 2024 Games in Paris, no doubt. And, in addition, a few fundamental elements. In fencing, the arrival of Sylvia Le Maux, long very involved in the sport of La Francophonie, as general manager of the French federation. In surfing, the presence of Jean-Luc Arassus, former president of the French Federation, on the executive committee of an international organization (ISA). Finally, my more active participation in the French-speaking world after the end of my international mandates.