There are many tennis players, and particularly former tennis players, about whom it is impossible to stay indifferent. May it be for the right or for the wrong reasons. We can think of John McEnroe, who was colourful on court and still is now that he is a well-established tennis commentator. Who hasn’t discussed his views of, for instance, Rafael Nadal’s volleys? Everyone who follows tennis remembers those very well, whether they agreed with him or not (which is not the point of discussion at the moment).
Another of these very opinionated former players is without a doubt Frenchman Yannick Noah. And over the last few days, the 1983 French Open champion was talked about a lot, both for the good and the wrong reasons.
Let’s start by the good reasons, because good they are and they are very worthy of mention, so interesting were they.
Noah gave a splendid interview to ESPN Deportes columnist Jorge Viale, an interview that was split over two parts (in Spanish), the first one in which Noah exposes his vew of tennis and how it has changed from a time of colourful characters to that of players who are, to put it mildly, some sort of politically correct robots. The second part, much deeper, is a lot about celebrity (that part about Diego Maradona is really quite something) to how he followed the footsteps of Che Guevara , his music, etc. Really a lot of interesting material, of which, on his blog (Fue Buena), Viale was kind enough to put the English audio clips as well.
But as much as this interview was enchanting and made us talk about Noah for the right reasons, his words about Spanish sports in Le Monde, as repeated in various media since, makes everyone forget about this good and focus on the bad reasons.
Because Noah accuses the Spanish sportsmen of doping. Not just one of them, not in just one sport, but all of them and in every sport. Which is a bad accusation to put on a whole country, for one, but, for two, without any proof whatsoever of what he is bringing forward, save going back to the big “hush hush” that followed the Fuentes affair.
Here’s a sample of what he said in that column that should be in tomorrow’s Le Monde: “How can a nation dominate sport at this point, from one day to the next? Have they discovered training techniques and structures of avant-garde that no one before them had imagined?”
And he goes even further in the accusations: “I can hardly believe this thesis. Because today, sport is a little like Astérix at the Olympic Games: if you do not have the magic potion, it is difficult to win. And right now, we are under the impression that, like Obélix, they fell into the pot. Lucky them.”
I can only wonder why Noah had such words towards a nation who has undoubtedly become one of the greatest sports nation in the world at the moment, if not the greatest. And, of course, what proofs he has to what he’s putting forward
Of course, Spaniards were quick to reply to the accusations. For instance, Marca journalist David Menayo, via Twitter, talks about a gross generalization and his words being the literal translation of “throw the stone and hide your hand”, in other words, being sneaky. And I’m sure that Menayo will only be the first of many a Spanish media retaliation to come.
But one thing is for sure. With his declarations, Yannick Noah really put his foot in his mouth. And thus makes us forget his most interesting words of only a couple of days ago.