France

Can we play football on the Breton islands?


Only the two largest Breton islands have their own football club today. Among others, desire and ideas are not lacking, however.

Quentin Labelle, president of the US Groix quickly finds the terms: “Football on the continent is velvet. We on the island do the same sport, but not under the same conditions. But for nothing in the world I would swap the USG jersey for another. Founded in 1936 and a veritable institution on the Morbihan island – “in every family there is someone with a link to the club” -, the US Groix (D3) appears among one of the only two island clubs de Bretagne engaged in official competition.

On the island of Batz, SC Batzat is an unofficial football club. (Photo Nicolas Creach)

More than ten years ago, Ile-aux-Moines (56) and Ile d’Houat (56) also had their representatives in shorts, but the two teams have since died out. The second, AS Belle-Île-en-Mer (D2), created in 1937, registered four teams this season and is closer to the operation of a classic club, with its population of 5,500 souls.

The boat, 50% of the budget

Its president, Yannick Guellec, evokes, moreover, “few differences in Belle-Ile with clubs on the continent, apart from the fact of traveling by boat”. A detail with big numbers, however, in the savings of the two sports associations. Because, if at US Groix, the logistical challenge represents “a big third” of the club’s total budget (€4,000), at ASBI, it takes up half (€24,000). Expenses cushioned by municipal subsidies and sponsors, who themselves delight with their ease of access.

©PHOTOPQR/LE TELEGRAMME/Nicolas Créach.  September 21, 2022 île de Batz Making a club last on an island ball, football.
Are football and the Breton islands incompatible? SC Batzat had made inquiries to register a team. (Photo Nicolas Creach)

If these two have proven that on the financial side, an island club can exist, other factors can block the desire for evolution. Thus, the SC Batzat, unofficial club of the island of Batz (29), famous for its summer tournament, had inquired to integrate a championship, a few years ago. “The District believed in a joke!, puts back Nicolas Glidic, its president. It could have been done at the level of the organization of the competitions, the logistics with the boat, the workforce, but not at the level of the infrastructures. Our land is not approved…” Indeed, located a few steps from the coast, it is protected, on the legislative side, and could not expand.

On the Ile de Bréhat (22), Stephan Morlevat pushed for a makeover of the pitch, but the municipal councilor considers the birth of a football team in the near future “utopian”: “There is a whole generation of adults who don’t exist here: 18-25 year olds. There were attempts, with training, but it didn’t last.

PHOTO Lionel Le Saux / THE TELEGRAM.  BREHAT (22): aerial view of the island of Brehat, Brehat archipelago.
Stéphan Morlevat, municipal councilor in Bréhat (22) considers the creation of a football club on the island “utopian”. (File photo Lionel Le Saux)

Ouessant tried…

Because, in addition to the logistical and structural limits, the demographic chance inherent in the majority of the Breton islands makes the balance of a complex project. “We start from zero every summer, with a sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. Being president of an island club is a huge mental load, I have never known a quiet season preparation, ”confirms the Groisillon Quentin Labelle, whose club had to press pause in 2015 and only counts a team for a year.

PHOTO EUGENE LE DROFF/THE TELEGRAM.  BREST (29) LE 20060926: Island of Ouessant Lampaul and Créac'h lighthouse (in the background)
In Ouessant, there was a volleyball club. (File photo François Destoc)

Ouessant and its approximately 830 inhabitants succeeded, for a time, in bringing together and validating a team… but they hit the ball with their hands: “Our volleyball team was registered in the FSGT championship (1), and we were gassing well! But you had to spend at least one night on the mainland, ”revives Denis Palluel, mayor of the Finistère island. On the football side, we talk more about sport-leisure and weekly training, of which the mayor himself was in charge, more than ten years ago: “I miss it, it was great times”. Here, the distance to land remains, however, as much a brake as the deteriorating population: it takes at least two hours of crossing from Brest and the connections are less frequent than for Groix or Belle-Ile.

A tournament between islands?

On the island of Sein (29), the duo of infrastructure and demography is rampant: “When I was little, there were always 1,400 of us on the island and we played North against South matches. Since then, the island has emptied, there are up to 200 inhabitants at the height of winter, and the land where we used to play serves as a heliport today, ”presents the Sénan mayor, Didier Fouquet.

So when making a football club can remind us of the inequality of opportunity on the islands, desires, like an occasional competition between ourselves, are born. This weekend, Les Insulaires, the festival of the Ponant islands, could have become the first framework for this idea. “A football tournament was planned this year, but there was no ground on Île-aux-Moines, confirms Jean-Benoît Beven, the organizer of the festival. But if, in the future, the island hosting the festival wants to, we can put that in place”. The harbor is open…

PHOTO FRANCOIS DESTOC / LE TELEGRAM BELLE ILE EN MER (56): Le Palais port of arrival on the island
With its area and population (5,500 inhabitants), AS Belle-Île-en-Mer (here Le Palais, its port of arrival) is closer to the operation of a continental club than the other island clubs. (File photo François Destoc)

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