France captain Renard to skip World Cup to 'preserve mental health', Diani, Katoto step down

Women's Euro 2022 - Semi Final - Germany v France
Soccer Football - Women's Euro 2022 - Semi Final - Germany v France - Stadium MK, Milton Keynes, Britain - July 27, 2022 France's Wendie Renard looks dejected after the match REUTERS/Molly Darlington
  • 'I don't want to suffer anymore', says Renard
  • Diani and Katoto also step down in wake of Renard's decision
  • French federation says will address issues next week

Feb 24 (Reuters) - France captain Wendie Renard will not play at this year's Women's World Cup to preserve her mental health, she said on Friday, with fellow internationals Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani following suit soon after her announcement.

Renard, who is widely considered one of the best defenders in women's football, played for France in international games against Norway, Denmark and Uruguay earlier this month.

She has 142 caps for France and plays for French side Olympique Lyonnais.

According to a report in French multimedia outlet RMC Sport, Renard will not play for the national team as long as coach Corinne Diacre is in charge.

Renard was stripped of the France captaincy by Diacre following their quarter-final exit at Euro 2017, before regaining it in 2021. Diacre has previously attracted criticism from other French players, including Gaetane Thiney and Sarah Bouhaddi.

"I love France more than anything, I am not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer support the current system, which is far from the requirements of the highest level," Renard said on social media.

"It is a sad day but necessary to preserve my mental health. It is with a heavy heart that I come to inform you of my decision to step back from the French team.

"Unfortunately, I will not be playing in this World Cup under such conditions. My face may hide the pain but my heart is suffering... and I don't want to suffer anymore."

Renard received support from her Lyon team mate Ada Hegerberg, who quit Norway's national team for five years in protest over the treatment of women's soccer in the country.

"How long will we have to go through these lengths for us to be respected? I'm with you, Wendie, and with everybody else going through the same processes," Hegerberg tweeted. "Time to act."

Shortly after Renard's statement, Katoto and Diani, who have made a combined 114 appearances for France, also announced that they would be stepping down from the national team until changes are made.

"Following the press release of our captain Wendie Renard and in view of the recent results and management of the french national team, I announce that I am suspending my international obligations in order to concentrate on my career at club level," Diani said on social media.

"I am the first fan of the French team and if the necessary changes are finally made, I will return..."

The French Football Federation (FFF) said it had noted the players' announcement and would address the issue at its executive committee meeting on Tuesday.

"The FFF has taken note of the statements made by Wendie Renard, Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto. Its Executive Committee, meeting on 28 February, will address the issue on that occasion," it said in a statement.

"The FFF would like to point out that no individual is above the institution of the French team."

The issues in the France team are the latest in women's football ahead of the World Cup. Canada is in dispute with their national federation over pay equity issues while 15 Spain players have been frozen out of the team over a revolt against their coach.

This year's World Cup, co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, will take place from July 20 to Aug. 20.

France have been drawn into Group F alongside Jamaica, Brazil and Panama. They have played at the World Cup four times, with their best result coming in 2011 when they finished fourth.

Reporting by Aadi Nair and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge and Kim Coghill

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