• Olympique de Marseille celebrates thirty years since the club's victory in the final of the Champions League, this weekend, against Brest.
  • For its part, Roland-Garros is preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Yannick Noah's victory at the Porte d'Auteuil.
  • These two commemorations of victories as old as the world question the relationship of France to these ancestral sporting successes.

It is certainly the biggest sea serpent in the history of French sport in the last forty years. As Roland-Garros approaches, the 10 million ruble question that keeps coming back on the carpet: But-who-who-is-the-French-who-will-finally-succeed Yannick-Noah-at-the-Roland's-palmares? A bit like Marie Myriam at the Eurovison, in short. And every year, as at Eurovision, it is without the slightest raising of eyebrows that we see that it is not yet for today. And most likely not for tomorrow either.

So, if we don't win, we commemorate. Coincidentally, this year, in addition to celebrating with great pomp the fortieth anniversary of Yannick Noah's victory over the Parisian ochre, on the occasion of which the Frenchman will be entitled to a fresco on the walls of Roland, Olympique de Marseille will also put on its 31 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the club's victory in the Champions League, Saturday, on the occasion of the reception of Brest at the Velodrome stadium.

Forty years on one side, thirty on the other, yes, sometimes you have to go back a long way to remember the good memories of winning France. Certainly, in many sports, especially from a collective point of view and national selections, we do not have anything to be ashamed of, we think pell-mell of the Blues of football, the blues and blues of hand and basketball or Riner of judo (non-exhaustive list). But they, precisely, do not commemorate their past successes any more than that. By saying it in our own way (stupid and nasty), wouldn't it be a big loser thing?

Commemoration as the unwavering sign of a somewhat pathetic nostalgia and the implacable admission of our total lack of hope for our future chances. "It is mainly when we are waiting for a new trophy, that the previous one inexorably recedes, that the desire for a new victory increases and that we activate this nostalgia," agrees Patrick Clastres, professor of sports history at the University of Lausanne.

"We have to move forward, we live too much in the past"

Let's be honest for two minutes, what normally constituted person – apart from Franck McCourt and his OM Champions Project – imagines OM on the roof of Europe in the decades to come? As for tennis, and just look at the draw made this Thursday to be convinced, we say that we will already be very happy if we still have some survivors in the 3rd round of Roland. So we do with what we have, we remember the happy days. For Alexandre Jacquin, head of the sports department of La Provence, it is high time to say stop. Even if, paradoxically, his duck will release a special 124-page booklet to celebrate the Olympian victory in C1.

"For me, it should be the last time we celebrate the title of European champions. It's okay, we won't forget. It is necessary that gradually the OM of now take over rather than live in the past. When was the last title? 2012 and the Coupe de la Ligue. In the meantime, how many second-hand clubs have won stuff? Yes, but we are 'Forever the first'... We need to move forward. You live too much in the past, at some point it's way too much. »

Would this nostalgia be an exclusively franchouillard specificity? For Patrick Clastres, this is a big no. "Sport has tended to commemorate since its origins. It's a great sporting tradition, it's not new and not specific to France. It's found in all countries, it's part of the history of clubs, selections, we celebrate the big dates, the anniversaries of victories. Author of the book 1983 on the victory of Yannick Noah, recently published by Flammarion, Antoine Benneteau even thinks that the France does not do enough.

🇫🇷 Legendary 📸
Yannick Noah / Roland-Garros 1983 🏆 pic.twitter.com/PzNaXWUUqV

— SPORTRICOLORE (@sportricolore) May 16, 2023

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"On the contrary, I find that it is not very French to commemorate victories, in my opinion we do not do it enough. I spent four years at the University of Florida, a great sports university in the United States, with great champions like Ryan Lochte in swimming or Christian Taylor, Olympic champion in triple jump, Joachim Noah in basketball, and I find that they are in a permanent celebration of athletes and their victories. It corresponds to a certain culture of winning that should be more conveyed at home. One, because it is the least we can do, and two because it helps to inspire the younger generations who are coming, so that they are aware that others have done it and that it is therefore possible. »

And what do we think of all this outside our borders? To find out, we went to ask the opinion of Christopher Clarey, the former tennis mister of the New York Times, about fifteen Roland-Garros on the counter. On arrival, it may not have been the best choice. "I, you know, I'm not the best example of 'abroad' because I've spent so much time in France, I speak the language and I appreciate your culture. Maybe for other foreigners, it could make you smile, because Noah has only won Roland Garros once and that was already forty years ago, but I understand the initiative, he confides. And then there is already the statue of Rafael Nadal, who is certainly incredible as a champion but who is not French. It was time for Roland to do something. »

RG's late awakening to pay tribute to Noah

Finally, at least in the case of Yannick Noah, we should perhaps do the headstand and take the question backwards. It is not so much to celebrate the forty pinnings of his victory that is shameful, it is to do it so late. Antoine Benneteau: "We were talking about it with Yannick when we were writing the book. He is happy that there is a trace that is left at Roland-Garros, but I want to say that it was time! In the other Grand Slam tournaments, there's Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open, there's Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open, and what did we do? We made a statue of Rafael Nadal. So, that's fine, he's the master of the place, but he's Spanish. That it takes forty years for Yannick to have an indelible mark on Roland is a bit of a shame. »

Questioned in Benneteau's book, the person concerned himself admits that the pill has not passed. "The story is that about six months ago, I went to see a boxing match organized at Roland Garros with Eleejah and Joalukas (two of his children). It's the first time I've been there with my kids and, once there, I realize that there is nothing, not a trace of my victory. It made me feel weird... Noah says. Let him rest assured, the error will soon be erased. "Commemorations play an important role in that they serve to forge links between generations," says the sports historian. Recalling great sagas, great victories, that's how we create a link between the past and the present. And it must remain above all a moment of joy. Let us be reassured, therefore, this weekend, from Paris to Marseille, there will be no reason to blush at the idea of celebrating our past glories.

  • Football
  • Tennis
  • Sport
  • Roland-Garros 2023
  • Yannick Noah
  • Olympique de Marseille (OM)