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Brittany set to play first football international in a decade

30 Sep 2022 5 minute read
Brittany, captained by Paul Le Guen, in a match against Cameroon in 1998 (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Jonathan Ervine

It’s been quite a week for football in Celtic nations. Wales has continued preparations for their first World Cup appearance since 1958 and Scotland has been promoted to the top level of UEFA’s Nations League. However, there is another story which may have passed somewhat under the radar on these shores.

This week, it has been announced that Brittany is to play its first football match in a decade next year. The team – known in Breton as Skipailh Breizh – are due to play a game just after the end of the Ligue 1 season in early June.

As the Breton team does not have official status within UEFA or FIFA, they are required to play their games outside the French domestic season. Several key details about the encounter are yet to be confirmed – such as the venue, the opponents, and who will be representing Brittany – but the news has already generated media interest.

One of the most well-known current players eligible to represent Brittany is Real Madrid and France midfielder Eduardo Camavinga. However, whether the reigning European champions allow the player signed from Rennes to play may well be another matter. The same can be said of several other high-profile players eligible to represent Brittany, such as Marseille midfielder Jordan Veretout and Leeds United goalkeeper Ilan Meslier.

Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain – now 34 and playing in the United States with Inter Miami – is also technically eligible to pull on a Breton shirt. Higuain was in fact born in Brest while his father was playing professionally in France, but left the country before his first birthday.

In an interview in 2016, Yoann Gourcuff – a France international whose former clubs include Rennes, Lorient, Bordeaux, Lyon and Milan – said that he liked the idea of Brittany playing matches but that matters such as scheduling and insurance pose significant challenges.

The regional newspaper Le Télégramme estimate that there are twenty Breton players representing teams in Ligue 1, the top division of French football. Lorient are the team with the highest number of Breton players, ahead of fellow Breton teams Rennes and Brest.

If allowed to play, Brest captain Brendan Chardonnet would be a strong candidate to lead Brittany, as would Brittany’s most capped player Romain Thomas. Thomas currently plays for Ligue 2 side Caen in Normandy.

There are also several up-and-coming talented players from Brittany who have been impressing in Ligue 1 this season. They include Lorient midfielder Enzo Le Fée and winger Mathias Autret, who plays for Auxerre in the Burgundy region.

National anthem

If clubs from France’s top two divisions are reluctant to release players to play for Brittany next June, then it may well be that Skipailh Breizh is made up of semi-professional and amateur players. However, it will be interesting to see if recently retired players with considerable top division experience can be encouraged to play.

Jeremy Morel and Fabien Lemoine could bring considerable experience to the Breton team. Morel is a defender now aged 38 who retired this summer after having played for Lorient, Marseille, Lyon, and Rennes. Lemoine is a 35-year-old midfielder who spent much of his career at Saint-Étienne but also played for Rennes and Lorient. Like Morel, he retired at the end of the 2021-22 season.

The last international match played by Brittany was in 2013 when they won 1-0 against Mali in Carquefou. This was not the first time they had faced African opponents as the drew 1-1 against Cameroon in 1998 and beat Congo 3-1 in 2008. Their other previous opponents also include Corsica, to whom they lost 2-0 in an away match in 2010.

Brittany in a match against Congo at Stade Fred Aubert, Saint-Brieuc, in 2008. Public domain.

In the decade since Brittany’s last match, key symbols of Breton identity have become increasingly visible and audible within the French footballing landscape. Whilst recently researching football and identity in Brittany along with Paddy Hoey from Liverpool John Moores University, several key events have been of particular interest.

The French Cup Final of 2014 was – as in 2009 – contested between Breton teams Guingamp and Rennes. The final at the Stade de France was preceded by Nolwenn Leroy signing the Breton anthem Bro Gozh Ma Zadou on the pitch. The title of the anthem translates as Land of My Fathers and it is played to the same tune as Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

2015 was a year when the Breton language gained prominence in a sporting context as Rennes re-named their stadium Roazhon Park, with Roazhon being the Breton name for Rennes.

When June 2023 comes round, Brittany’s first international match in a decade is likely to see the region’s football fans flying the gwen ha du – the flag of Brittany – with considerable pride.

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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 year ago

Pob lwc Brittany….our Celtic brothers!!!

George Thomas
George Thomas
1 year ago

This good. Build those connections in a positive way.

Marc Davies
Marc Davies
1 year ago

Celtic solidarity!

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