It came as surprising news to most on Friday when France defender Wendie Renard announced that she was stepping back from the national team. In her statement, she cites that she could no longer endorse the current system being so far from the requirements of performing at the highest level and that she would not be playing in the World Cup this summer under said conditions.
Renard has been representing France on the international stage since 2011, and was captain from 2013-2017, and 2021, until now, after being stripped of the captaincy by manager Corinne Diacre.
Losing Renard on her own is a devastating blow for France’s World Cup chances but she was not the only senior team member to announce stepping back from international duty due to the team management. Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani both announced that they would be stepping back hours after Renard made her decision.
The loss of Katoto and Diani in the attack along with the aerial threat of Renard will be tough for France to replace in Australia and New Zealand.
All of this is occurring at the same time when the Canadian national team is actively pursuing a very public fight against their federation for better treatment and better pay. After an almost-strike occurred at the SheBelieves Cup, several national teams joined Canada in support by wearing purple tape including teams participating in other international tournaments like the Cup of Nations and Arnold Clark Cup. Spain is also involved in a battle with management that saw 15 players step back from their national team last fall.
Currently, a majority of the FIFA Top 15 ranked teams do not have CBAs or other ways of pushing back against their federations other than stepping back from international duty. It wouldn’t be surprising if Renard, Diani and Katoto were just the tip of the spear.
The French Football Federation also released a statement in response to the three players’ statements saying that they will address the issue in the Executive Committee meeting on February 28th but added the caveat, “[t]he FFF would like to remind that no individual is above the Equipe de France institution.”
Considering the expansive growth of the sport over the last few years, including all of the records broken last summer during the UEFA European Championship, standards must be raised to treat the athletes better in order to continue progressing the sport.