Imagine a small Armorican village, surrounded by three much bigger camps. This is what the girls of Brest Bretagne Handball could feel at the moment. For the first time in its history, the Finistère club will play a Champions League Final 4. It takes place as usual in Budapest, Hungary, with first this Saturday (at 3.15 p.m.) a semi-final against Györ, the three-time defending champion from Hungary. If a feat, it will then be necessary to play the title against the Norwegians of Kristiansand or the Russians of CSKA Moscow. Suffice to say that for a baptism of fire, the Brestoises are served. But in the end, isn’t it the small village that systematically emerges as the winner?
The Breton club, however, did not arrive there by chance. In the quarter-finals, the players of Laurent Bezeau, including the Habs Pauline Coatanea, Kalidiatou Niakaté, Cléopâtre Darleux, Coralie Lassource and Pauletta Foppa, thus released Metz, the other stronghold of hand in France. As for the title last Sunday. Since 2016, with one exception (Nice finalist two years ago), these two clubs share the 1st place in the championship, with a clear advantage for the Lorraines. East against West, and the crumbs for the rest.
In its history, the BBH has known a number of ups and downs. His only national title (that of last year was not awarded due to Covid) dates from 2012, when he was still called Armor 29. The following year, he had to file for bankruptcy for financial reasons . Downgraded to No.1, he then gradually climbed back up to Elite with two firsts in 2016: the Coupe de France and participation in EHF, the 2nd European level.
“We got our hands dirty”
“I arrived from Toulouse for the end of the world, jokes Laurent Bezeau, the coach since 2009 (except for the 2012-2013 season when he led Tunisia). If you are not Breton, the doors do not open immediately, but this region is a land of welcome, the people are nice. When I came back, we had dreams, especially the Final 4. We got our hands dirty. There have been ups and downs, but personally I never doubted. “
In 2012, the restructuring began thanks to the will of a number of people. Gérard Le Saint, who will be 60 in a month, is one of them. This entrepreneur in the distribution of fresh products, who manages 2,200 employees in the Great West with Denis, his three-year-old younger, went in search of financial partners. The two brothers have been both co-chairs of BBH for almost a decade, as well as of Stade Brestois since 2016.
“We came, we liked, and we got involved in the game, says the person concerned. Without passion there is nothing. After a year, I said to Denis: “We have to win the LDC! »But we must not dream, it takes time. The idea was to federate an entire territory. We want atmosphere, animation, a mix of all audiences, from full stands to the hand (Editor’s note: 4,200 seats at the Brest Arena) and football (15,000 at the Francis-Le Blé stadium). And then go for a drink after the games. “
“In Brest, apart from football and hand, there is almost nothing behind”
In 2018, the final of the Coupe de France takes place in Paris, at the POPB. Gérard Le Saint, who reserved the bar opposite Bercy for the 2,000 supporters who came by bus from the distant Armorique, made the first order: 400 beer halves! To fill its stands next year, it will be offering tickets from 4 and 5 euros in September. “If we don’t dress the bride, we have nothing,” he blurted out. We are proud to be Bretons! “
International since 2017, Pauline Coatanea was born 27 years ago in Saint-Renan, 15 km from Brest. His professional career has been summed up in Nantes (5 years) and Brest (since 2017). “There is even stronger than Brestoise for me: Finistérienne! I grew up in this land of handball. When I left for Nantes, during the descent, people understood that there was nevertheless an attachment to the West. Our supporters (“from the End of the World”, as they call themselves) are always behind us. They accost you in the street and smile at you. It’s a chance because in Brest, apart from football and hand, there is hardly anything behind. “
The Blue wing, who will play in the Tokyo Games this summer, is even proud to accompany her foreign teammates to discover her region: “For the Norwegians and Danes, the climate suits them very well! Last summer, we did an internship in Ouessant. The girls liked it and asked what were the cool places to go, the good restaurants. We’re going to eat at Hammerhead Crab, and I’m teaching them how to shell shellfish and seafood. Some have even tried oysters, with varying degrees of success… ”