“Guy Roux allowed me to leave the hotel in the morning to look at my horses,” says Lionel Charbonnier.

“People think it’s passion. It’s not an option. Football is a passion, horses are a profession. And this is what the World Cup Champion tells you. The owner of the most beautiful selection trophy in the French national team, Lionel Charbonnier is very often not the first name that pops up in our collective memory when we think of France in 1998. Caped Blue in June 1997 put himself at the service of others to shine. in a round ball. Self-sacrifice is also cultivated in the world of horses, its second life forever. “You can’t think of it, you need to know where you are stepping. I have lived among horses for so long that I know by heart the world of trotters, gallopers, jumpers … “

Stud farm, training center… nothing is left to chance

And not in vain. Having retired since 2002, he has been living for more than 20 years in the heart of a huge 30-hectare complex of a stud farm and training center that he himself built in the southwest of Auxerre. A formidable tool, where a large staff is employed daily: local veterinarian, medical staff and technical staff, including Thierry Pomel, former coach of the French CSO team. “This is not a one-day whim, a “star thing” as some might say. This is something we take seriously,” insists this enthusiast, who works day and night in his field when he is not on the move for his other activities as an RMC consultant.

Lionel Charbonnier threw himself into equestrianism when he signed his first professional football contract with AJ Auxerre Guy Roux in the late 1980s. “Combining my day-to-day life as a goalkeeper with that of a thoroughbred coach brought me a real balance at the time to get some distraction, even before European matches. Guy allowed me to leave the hotel in the morning to look at my horses. In the end, I got up much earlier than my teammates and then came with fresh thoughts to breakfast with them. It didn’t affect my group life in any way. »

“Lemaire is a bigger star than Neymar in Japan. But nobody here knows about it.”

Charbonnier still could not do without his own “oxygen” even at the epicenter of a major football event. “When I was with the French national team, during the 1998 World Cup, (Alain) Bogosian was in my room in Clairefontaine. He saw me watching videos sent to me about my horses every day. At the time, I could hear them breathing into my big phone. This allowed me to lead them from a distance, it was already a kind of remote work! (Laughs) Alain was a little drunk, he said that I was always with my nags. »

A 55-year-old former goalkeeper who traveled quite a bit after the crampons were removed. (Tahiti, Indonesia, Madagascar), I would like the horse to take up more space in sports and the media. In the summer of 2021, 664,178 licensees were registered, which is 60,000 more members than in a year. The equestrian Federation is the third largest after football and tennis. “However, if we say “horse”, everyone thinks about betting on horses. It’s not just for me. There is a misunderstanding. We had a driver who was on top of the world, his name was Jean-Michel Bazir. If you ask people in Paris who it is today, no one will answer you. Christophe Lemaire is adored all over the world, he is a bigger star than Neymar in Japan. But nobody here knows this. »

“Our first Olympic medals very often go to French riders”

He also wants to point out, for example, the importance of equestrian sport during the Olympic Games. “Our first medals very often come from French riders and stud farms… And we only talk about it on D-Day! All this shows that we have no culture of horses in France. If we want to communicate for the good of racing, we should not call Antoine Griezmann for publicity. This is not the way to do it. Even if it remains quite an expensive sport and it can be a hindrance to the public, we still have our heads upside down,” he opines, before pointing out that horseback riding is the sport “with the most representation of women.” , with 8 licensees. out of 10. Her daughter Stella is one of them.

Now the cornerstone of the Auxerre complex, which her father renovated to dedicate it to the practice of show jumping, the 19-year-old rider plays to a high standard in show jumping. “She got into it five years ago, after she became the French champion in riding and rode several thoroughbreds,” says the father of the future champion, who already competes regularly in international competitions. “And she is always the youngest. With her horse John, Stella became a real competitor. She was fourth at the Chantilly International Jumping Masters tournament: the fifth was the silver medalist of the Olympics. It makes you a little bit of my daughter. I believe that continuity is assured. This time it’s a rather proud dad talking to you.

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