The land on one side, justice on the other. By announcing the name of Benoît Kounkoud – accused of attempted rape by a 20-year-old woman during the evening which followed the return to Paris after winning the European title in Germany on Sunday January 28 – among those selected for this international week which will conclude with two friendly matches in Montpellier on Thursday against Argentina and on Saturday against Egypt, Guillaume Gille had already made a very meaningful choice a week ago.

A choice to which he returned this Tuesday, during a press briefing organized at the Maison du Handball in Créteil: “Yes, no doubt I could be criticized for this choice. As is the case with any player whenever my selection is announced. I have a job where I have to make choices and position myself. I am not for or against anyone, I follow my beliefs. This international week is there to take stock of the Euro and everyone who experienced this competition should be there. This is why even those who were injured and uncertain were present so that we could be together, meet again and debrief the last European campaign in order to better prepare for the Games. It is for this reason, in particular, that Benoît is with us at this gathering.

But the coach also clarified, on a more human and relational level with his player: “It’s nice to see Benoît again. He went through and is still going through a very complicated moment, and we are going through it with him. To find ourselves associated with such an accusation takes us a long way from what represents us. This is not like us. This is why it was important, in my eyes, to show him my support at that moment. I am the first to wait for justice to do its work and for us to have all the clarity possible on this matter. He also suffered a painful club problem with a provisional suspension. But until proven otherwise, Benoît is free and the French team is not intended to deliver justice.

A clear opinion, but less than that of Dika Mem, who himself admits to considering Benoît Kounkoud as “a brother”. Even if he admits in the preamble that this is the first time he has seen his partner in Blue since the Euro. “I’m super happy to see him here, with a smile, the desire to train. This means that things are progressing well for him. And everyone received it well. We know that there is a matter in progress and we wait for it to be resolved, hoping that it will go its way. And I’m sure that will be the case and that afterwards we will be able to restore its name.” A certainty which should make some people cringe, but which is in a certain way only an inverse position to that of a certain feminist movement coming to support the complainants with this leitmotif: “we believe you”.

In the same way as these, but with the addition of his shared experience with the Kielce player, Dika Mem therefore wants to be clear. “I didn’t believe it from the start, because I know it’s not true. From there, I want to give time for the investigation to unfold and officially prove that it wasn’t true. And Benoît has known since day one that he has my full support. It touched me to see his name involved in something like this, especially when you know the person and you know it’s false. It’s super important that he feels he’s not alone. His club allowed him to play again, he is there in the French team, he is surrounded. “It’s not an easy situation for him to go through and he needs support.”

Support he will also receive from Ludovic Fabregas, named captain of the Blues in the absence of Luka Karabatic, usual holder of the armband. “Today, we have to be there for him,” recalls the Blues pivot. “I think he’s been through something very difficult and it’s important to support him. On the legal side, an investigation is underway and we will see what happens later. But at the moment, if the coach called on him, it is so that we can be at his side. And we feel happy to be there, in the French team but also among his friends. Benoît, I know him from the French cadet team for example and it’s always a pleasure to meet him again. I hope everything goes better for him in the future.”

As for whether he spoke about this famous night from Monday January 29 to Tuesday January 30 with his partner, the Catalan remains firm in his boots, and his personal convictions. “I think it’s up to him to address the subject, if he wishes to do so. Of course, the subject is on the table but there is also an investigation underway. Benoît, I have known him for a long time and I trust him. And personally, I don’t have to raise the subject with him. If he wants to talk to me about it, he knows I’m there. But between us, I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about it. I am here to support him as best I can. In any case, this is the perception I have regarding this situation, as long as I do not have more concrete elements at my disposal. And Dika Mem concludes: “We can consider this as a thorn in the side. When we see everything that is happening at the moment, it is a very delicate subject that needs to be talked about. Which does not necessarily mean putting everything on the same level, without distinction. But of course I would prefer to only have to talk about the French team and not about what happens to Benoît. For now, the best thing is to concentrate on the French team and when the investigation is completed, all this will be behind him.”