June 10, 2018 / 12:38 PM / 6 months ago

France's Macron says he was a soccer player who 'would not let go'

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was a determined soccer player in his youth who “would not let go” and would motivate his team mates.

French President Emmanuel Macron, winks to the French national soccer team players, as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris looks on during a meeting at France's training camp in Clairefontaine, near Paris, France, June 5, 2018 prior to the national team's participation to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Francois Mori/Pool via Reuters

“I played left back. I was nasty though not very skillful.

On the pitch, I was the sort that would not let go and would motivate the others,” he told the Telefoot programme on French channel TF1.

Macron lunched with the French squad at their training camp of Clairefontaine earlier this week, a presidential visit that has become a ritual for French leaders ever since Jacques Chirac visited the squad in the run-up to the 1998 tournament.

France went on to triumph on home soil and Chirac’s popularity soared - just what the tonic Macron might be wishing for his own ratings. After a year in power, a raft of economic and social reforms have earned him the tag “president of the rich” among left-wing voters.

“A winning team gives back a lot of confidence,” Macron said. “I feel the team wants to succeed and bring back the cup.”

Macron has defied calls from rights groups to boycott this summer’s World Cup because of Moscow’s involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Macron, a fan of southern France’s Olympique Marseille, has said he would travel to Russia for the soccer World Cup if France reach the semi-finals.

“I said I’d come to see you when you got through the quarter final. Note that I said ‘when’ and not ‘if’,” he told players.

France has been drawn to face Australia, Denmark and Peru in Group C at the World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15.

France salvaged a late 1-1 draw against the United States in their final World Cup warm-up game on Saturday in Lyon.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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