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French soccer giants Paris Saint-Germain were accused on Tuesday of failing to take climate change seriously, after coach Christophe Galtier and star Kylian Mbappe scoffed at a suggestion that they should take the train rather than private planes for short-haul trips.
Galtier and Mbappe were asked at a press conference on Monday whether they had discussed an offer from national rail group SNCF to allow them to travel to away games.
Galtier initially smiled at the idea while Mbappe bent on laughing at the suggestion – the clip quickly going viral on social media.
“We spoke with our tour operators earlier to see if we could travel by sand yacht,” replied Galtier sarcastically, referring to the sailing beach buggies that are popular on some French beaches.
Politicians, activists and even the Prime Minister intervened on Tuesday, condemning the pair for their disconnect and arrogance at a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis and spiraling temperatures linked to climate change.
“I think it is important that they realize what world we live in, that they are aware that there is a climate crisis that is no longer a hypothesis for tomorrow but a reality today,” said Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to journalists during a visit to a Paris police station. .
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire called Galtier’s response “inappropriate” while left-leaning Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: “Isn’t it safe to respond to stuff like that? ??? Wake up guys ??? This is Paris.”
The controversy began this weekend when PSG won an easy 3-0 away win over Nantes to stay top of Ligue 1 on their trip to the French city, 380 kilometers (240 miles) away. west of Paris but located on a high-speed train line.
The team – owned by an investment fund from major gas producer Qatar – boasted on social media that they made the return trip with shirt sponsors Qatar Airways, but their choice of trip was publicly questioned because of its carbon footprint.
“Paris-Nantes is less than two hours away by TGV,” wrote Alain Krakovitch, head of SNCF’s TGV high-speed trains, on Twitter.
“I am renewing our proposal for a TGV offer adapted to your specific needs while respecting our common interests: safety, speed, services and eco-mobility”, he added.
Speaking after PSG’s 2-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday, Galtier apologized for his remarks.
“Believe me when I say I’m concerned about climate change and our planet. I’m aware of the responsibility we have,” Galtier told Canal Plus.
“It was a joke in bad taste at the wrong time and I regret it.”
The controversy comes amid a growing clamor in France from environmental campaigners for restrictions on private jet travel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lobby group Attac pilloried Argentine PSG star Lionel Messi on Friday for his use of private air travel.
“From June to August, Messi made 52 flights with his private jet, which represents 1,502 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s as much as a single Frenchman would be responsible for in 150 years,” he said. .
French star striker Karim Benzema also came under fire this summer for posting a video from his vacation in Miami that displayed his wealth – and his carbon footprint – with sports cars, jet skis and motorboats.
Many teams from the top Spanish, Italian and English leagues, including Juventus and Liverpool, travel regularly by train.
Communications experts said they were surprised at the callousness of the PSG coach’s response on the same day President Emmanuel Macron was urging the French to turn down their air conditioning and heating to save electricity.
Europe faces an energy crisis this winter after Russia cut gas supplies to the continent.
The demeanor at the press conference was a rare misstep for World Cup winner Mbappe, who has earned a reputation as a mature and social player despite his young age of just 23.
“I have no idea,” he replied at the press conference when asked his opinion on the train travel option.
Contacted by AFP, its representatives declined to comment on Tuesday.
French climatologist Valerie Masson-Delmotte said she wanted Mbappe to lead by example.
“What he says, what he does, those things have an influence far beyond what scientists could say or do, because he inspires so many people,” she told France radio. Inter.