“We like great stories and they are the ones that end well. ” The sentence, signed Gérard Le Saint, co-president of Brest Bretagne Handball (BBH), sums up the eight years spent alongside Laurent Bezeau. The 52-year-old technician will lead, on May 29 and 30 in Budapest, his last two games at the head of the BBH during the “Final Four” – “final four” – of the Women’s Champions League. The first in the history of the club, which will have a lot to do, Saturday at 3:15 p.m., in the semi-finals against the Hungarians of Györ, five European titles on the charts, including the last three (2017, 2018 and 2019). The BBH will play another meeting on Sunday in the Hungarian capital, either to try to snatch victory (at 6 p.m.) or to contest for third place (3.15 p.m.).
The “beautiful story” ends in a somewhat abrupt way, however: in November, the Finistère club decided not to extend the contract of its coach. “We were at the end of a cycle, justifies Gérard Le Saint. At the end of eight years, there may be normal wear and tear, the need for freshness. ”
“I can understand that we want to create a new story, assures Laurent Bezeau. But humanly, I am excessively impacted, disappointed that they did not want to offer me something else. ” Otherwise, he will join Claude Onesta at the beginning of July at the National Sports Agency.
The separation with Laurent Bezeau is all the more surprising as the results of the BBH have never been so good. “We don’t want to make the year too long”, explains Gérard Le Saint.
An incredible final against Metz
Even before knowing if Brest will achieve the feat of qualifying for the final of the Women’s Champions League, Laurent Bezeau’s story ends in the best possible way. The national double is already acquired. Winner of the Coupe de France on May 15 against Nantes (37-33), Brest then overthrew Metz and its 23 French league titles thanks to a monumental feat in the return match (29-22), on May 23.
For Laurent Bezeau’s last outing at the Arena de Brest – a 5,000-seat venue inaugurated in 2014 – the Rebelles (nickname given to the Brestoises) recovered the 7-goal gap imposed in the first leg (24-31) to win the national title with more away goals.
“The nerves have let go, confesses the future ex-Brest coach. There was a great desire to win this title to start in the best possible way. “” There was emotion, confirms Gérard Le Saint. He gave everything for the club, his investment is total. “
🙏 Laurent Bezeau (@BBH_Officiel) rewarded by the LFH for his career and his investment in development… https://t.co/nXuNAk1eMJ
This title is above all the culmination of an ambitious project developed by the Le Saint brothers, also owners and presidents of the football club, Stade Brest (Ligue 1). At the head of a large local company, they created the Brest Bretagne Handball on the ruins of the Arvor 29, placed in compulsory liquidation just after its title of champion of France, in 2012.
From the Nationale 1 to the European top 4
After three first years at the club, from 2009 to 2012, then a short interlude as coach of Tunisia, Laurent Bezeau had put down his suitcases again in the port city in 2013. On the shores of the Atlantic, the Tourangeau hoped to settle in the long term. “I liked it right away, he remembers. The people are exceptional, sincere, friendly and welcoming. It was interesting to take root here. “
On his return, the club had just been relegated to National 1, the equivalent of the third division, and everything remained to be built. ” The objective was to return to the first division and one day become champion of France, says the manager. It is a formidable epic. In seven years, starting from N1 to go to the Final Four is quite exceptional. “
Year after year, the club has structured itself and progressed in order to find the heights of French women’s handball. The 2015-2016 season was exceptional. Still in the second division, the BBH won the first Coupe de France in its history, before moving up the following season to Division 1. “This is the first big challenge to succeed with Laurent [Bezeau] at the head of the club ”, sremembers Gérard Le Saint. “We were in Bercy with a white wall of Breton supporters, the whole diaspora was present”, smiles the coach.
Several players on the start
On May 29, Brest will become the second French team to compete in a Women’s Champions League Final Four, after Metz in 2019. An end in apotheosis for the adopted Breton, who measures the distance traveled. “It was a big challenge to succeed in reaching a Final Four in such a short time. To say that it was possible when we were in N1 would have been pretentious. “
From now on, the BBH is part of the great teams and Laurent Bezeau does not refrain from dreaming. “To beat Györ, who are the best team in the world, at home, would be an achievement, but it is achievable, Laurent Bezeau persuades himself. It’s possible to win the title because, over a weekend, anything can happen. “
The coach of the Rebels will not be the only one to leave the ship after this Hungarian weekend. Slovenian Ana Gros, voted best player in the Women’s Handball League this season, will join CSKA Moscow in 2022, while Swedish Isabelle Gulldén’s contract has not been extended. “For Isabelle, we do not have the means to align, and Ana had a superior proposal, on which we could not align”, details Gérard Le Saint.
The effects of Covid-19 have been felt on the BBH, which has saved 1 million euros to post a budget of around 5 million next season. The end of a cycle for Brest, which goes to Budapest for “Learn and discover”, in the words of Gérard Le Saint, who would like to see his club win the Champions League “Around 2026”.