If the AS Pontoise-Cergy table tennis website also offers an English version and a Chinese version, it is for a reason. Already double reigning French champion, European champion two years ago, the club could still count on its “international” table tennis, Sunday, May 29, in the Hall omnisports Philippe-Hémet, to win its second Champions League against the Swedes of Eslöv. Beaten in the first leg 3-1, the Parisians won the set average after also winning 3-1.
In its ranks, a Chinese (Jian Jun Wang), a Portuguese (Marcos Freitas), a Swedish (Kristian Karlsson) and a French (Tristan Flore). “The French championship has become one of the best in the world, the second, I think, behind China, believes Marcos Freitas, world number 12, five years of service in the Parisian suburb club. If you look at each team in the French championship, there are now at least two or three foreign players. Table tennis is a small world, it is easy to contact each other. “
Incomparable with the footballers of Real and Atlético Madrid, who will play on Saturday in “their” Champions League final, but Tristan Flore still dares to compare: “What’s cool about watching a football team like Real is that you have the best players from each country. And there, it’s the same, in my club, you have the Portuguese number 1, the Swedish number 1… In France, the table tennis clubs have a little money, so the best players come. “ Salary ? “It can range from less than 3,000 euros to 10,000 euros per month”, ensures the president of the Ile-de-France club, Lias Boughanem, who has an annual budget of 500,000 euros.
“They are not mercenaries”
On the tracksuit jacket of Christian Adam, the trainer, are displayed some supporters of the club: the agglomeration of Cergy-Pontoise or the department of Val-d’Oise. They provide sums to which are added, for each player, aid from racket manufacturers. “There is a real market around this, rappelle Christian Adam. You should know that in France millions of people play table tennis for leisure. And even players at the lowest departmental level will watch which racket Tristan, Marcos, etc. are playing. “
These “stars” meet at weekends in French gymnasiums (the championship matches being broadcast live on… the Dailymotion website), but spend the rest of the time abroad. Marcos Freitas lives in Austria, where he trains all year round in a private center. Jian Jun Wang, in Belgium. Kristian Karlsson, Sweden. Only Tristan Flore remains in France, but at the National Institute of Sport, in the heart of the Bois de Vincennes. Regret of Lias Boughanem: “We do not yet have enough structures to create a training center that will allow them to keep them all week with us. “
Despite these comings and goings, Christian Adam affirms his confidence: “What is important is that our players are not mercenaries, they stay close to the public and come to eat at my place before the matches, he explains, his hand on his heart. They don’t think of themselves as stars. ” Apart from the Chinese, all will also participate in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The opportunity, after all, for one more trip.