A year before France plays host to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™, the European country will provide the stage for the ninth edition of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. And while the senior tournament will take place in nine host cities spread across the country, the U-20 equivalent will be held in one specific region, namely Brittany.
Located on the west coast, Brittany is regarded as one of France’s most beautiful regions. But in addition to its physical beauty and strong cultural identity, it is also a land of football; in fact, it is one of the most well-represented areas in the French professional set-up. No fewer than three clubs currently compete in Ligue 1 – Rennes, Lorient and Guingamp – while Brest, now in Ligue 2, played in the top flight as recently as 2013. And in the women’s game, Guingamp are one of Division 1 Feminine’s major clubs
Griedge MBock Bathy, one of France’s most promising players, was a product of Guingamp’s youth academy. Born in Brest, the Lyon defender won the Golden Ball award at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 and came second in the voting for the equivalent accolade at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014. “Brittany loves football,” she recently told L’Equipe newspaper. As well as MBock Bathy, fellow internationals Clarisse Le Bihan and Camille Abily were also born in Brittany, while stalwart striker Eugenie Le Sommer grew up in the region.
Brittany in brief
Brittany is one of the 26 regions of France. It is made up of four departments, Cote d'Armor, Finistere, llle-et-Vilaine and Morbihan, and boasts nearly 3.1 million inhabitants (5 per cent of the French population). Bordered by the English channel to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the region is renowned for its splendid coastline that stretches for 1,100 km, a figure that doubles when its islands – which number over a thousand, equating to nearly 70 per cent of metropolitan France’s islands – are taken into account.
Brittany is also notable for sites with ties to Arthurian legend, such as Broceliande and Huelgoat, for unique specialities (sweet and savoury crepes, cider, kouign amann cake), and for a rich tradition of music and dance (the Vieilles Charrues, Transmusicales and festou-noz festivals). This intriguing Celtic region has maintained a progressive outlook without ever forgetting its deep roots, which gives it the strong identity of which the Breton people are so proud.
Did you know?
- Some of French football’s biggest names are originally from Brittany. Apart from the aforementioned female footballers, Yoann and Christian Gourcuff, Paul Le Guen, Corentin Martins and Stephane Guivarc’h are all natives of the region. High-profile Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain, who was born in Brest, can also be added to this list.
- Nantes has not been part of Brittany from an administrative point of view since 1941. This division is one of the reasons behind the strong rivalry that exists between Rennes, the “new” Breton capital, and Nantes, the former one. When the two teams meet in the Breton Derby, the supporters are not slow to remind each other about the historic split.
- Although Saint-Brieuc were crowned French champions in 1989 in the woman’s game, no Breton men’s club has ever won the Ligue 1 title. It has been a different story in the French Cup, from which Rennes (1965 and 1971), Lorient (2002) and Guingamp (2009) have all emerged victorious.
- With 150,000 registered players spread out among 1,000 clubs, Brittany has one of the highest player-to-resident ratios in France.
- Brittany has its own “national” football team. Administered by the Breton Football Association (BFA), this unofficial select includes players born in Brittany or of Breton descent. The team previously played – and obtained respectable results – against Cameroon on 21 May 1998, Congo on 20 May 2008, Togo on 21 May 2010 and Equatorial Guinea on 2 June 2011. The current coach of the side is former France supremo Raymond Domenech.