"I'm a small peddler of dreams who does his best to train and inspire people,” says France coach Bruno Bini, whose team trod new ground in finishing fourth at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
France’s surprise performance at Germany 2011 – only their second appearance at the women’s football showpiece – generated a surge of interest from the French public. “After the World Cup, what changed? Well, everything, almost,” Bini told FIFA.com. “France fell in love with our team and took the team as its own for two reasons: One, for the game they developed. Two, through the values that were shown.”
Bini took the France reins in 2007. Since then, he has led them to their best finish at a European championship (quarter-final stage in 2009), the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 and gold at the 2012 Cyprus Cup. In July, the coach will enjoy another milestone when France make their Olympic football debut.
Charisma and creativity
"Every night I write a journal that I post in the hotel. I make sure that everyone has to walk past and read it,” said Bini. “There is one page that always has the same message. Only the date changes. ‘Today will be another beautiful day.’ This is my philosophy and this is the philosophy I want to convey to the French team. It’s a beautiful day. Always."
It’s this type of positivity and optimism, cultivated by the charismatic Bini, that the French are hoping to convert into results at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2012 which takes place in London from 25 July to 9 August. “We begin our tournament facing the best team… against America who hold the title of Olympic champions. It will be very tight and, as always, the truth will be on the pitch,” says Bini.
The spotlight cast on Les Bleues after their FIFA Women's World Cup performance, and the high expectations heading into the Olympics are not without pitfalls. "There was a moment after the World Cup where, because of all the attention that we received, that I had to speak to my players,” says Bini. “With the glory and attention it’s easy for egos to surface and I needed to make the group understand that we needed to continue to be united. It’s a lot easier to cope with problems together.”
Live Together project
Bini’s philosophical turns of phrase, a trait the French coach has become renowned for, could easily be dismissed as colourful sound bites delivered by an eccentric individual. In fact, the self-effacing Frenchman is quick to admit that if he weren’t a football coach, he would potentially seek employment as a clown. But Bini’s philosophies are not mere rhetoric reserved for press conferences.
"When I took over in 2007, I took the key of the meeting room and gave it to the leader of the team. I said 'In ten days I want you to come up with a proposal on how we can live together.' They did that and submitted it on paper and I wasn't so surprised. The rules that they came up with were three times stricter than I would have come up. However, since they defined those rules there are no problems.”
Team selection is often delivered by posting a childhood photograph of each player, and Bini is partial to picking up his guitar and singing to his team (by his own count, he has penned over 30 original songs). These are just some of the creative and congenial tactics employed in his self-titled Live Together project. “To live together well, to play well together, this is the project of the French selection committee,” he says.
Bini’s tactics haven’t come without criticism, most of which was directed at his squad selection for Germany 2011. "When I drafted my list I chose 21 players for the tournament. I only asked myself one question. What suits the group best? I sweated bullets doing that, but life has taught me that, what is best for me is not always best for the group. However what’s best for the group is always best for me,” adds Bini.
Tough Olympic group
In their Olympic debut Les Bleues are drawn in Group G alongside USA – Gold medallists at three of the last four Olympic football tournaments - as well as Colombia and Korea DPR.
“As usual, there is no good or bad draw, that's the way it is," says Bini. “As we start against USA, we will have to be immediately shaped and deliver a good start to the competition. It will be three high-level matches, in beautiful stadiums.”
France will be looking to settle scores with USA. Pia Sundhage’s team defeated Les Bleues in the semi-finals of Germany 2011. But defeat is not something the French coach gets hung up on. “It's important that my players know that their coach allows them to make mistakes," said Bini. “What’s important is not that they don't make the mistake, but that rather they learn from that mistake.
The Frenchman’s focus seems fixed on resilience more than results. "Don’t give up. Don’t drop anything. If you are kicked out through the door come back through the window. Next time the door will be open," he says.