The former captain of the French rugby team knows England well, having played between 2005 and 2008 with the Wasps London team. The « Bleu » star, who won 98 caps for France -including two Grand Slams, one Wold Cup finale and one semi-finale- talks exclusively to Chic-Londres about his new role as ambassador of the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain.
What do you want to bring from your experience as a sportsman to the French Chamber of Commerce?
I am delighted to start this new role, which I see as a bridge between two countries and therefore as a prolongation of my career at the Wasps. Also, there are many similarities between sport and business: in both cases, success depends of your ability to stay strong when faced to adversity and pressure, as well as to surround yourself with good people in order to do so. I see this role as a fantastic opportunity to share my experience as a sportsman, especially when it comes to team playing, while understanding at the same time how to manage people, thanks to those new contacts with the business world.
You lived in London for several years and are still visiting regularly, as a Wasps ambassador, BBC consultant and now ambassador at the Chamber of Commerce. What do you like most in here?
I find its lifestyle particularly exciting and its energy exhilarating. I also love the fact that you can travel the world in e day in this city, as London is so culturally diverse. People are tolerant and you have the freedom to really be yourself. I also have very fond memories of London Wasps, and in particular of the times when we played in Twickenham: as the home of rugby, it is a mythical place for anyone who loves this sport.
How was the experience of being a Frenchman playing in an English team, especially during the 2007 World Cup?
Playing in London in 2007 was obviously a bit strange, as I was training with my English colleagues while knowing that we would play for opposite teams during the World Cup, especially as I was captain of the French team. So yes, there were many jokes exchanged but it was always quite friendly. Also, I must admit that arriving in 2005 as the only Frenchman in a predominantly English team also was a real challenge. But as in every team sport, the most important isn’t which country you come from but to be able to gain your partners respect. And I am glad to say that in that sense, I made friends for life amongst those English players. As a result, my first message as an ambassador is to show that joining forces is always positive.
The French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain
The French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (FCCGB) was established in 1883 and is today the largest Foreign Chamber in the UK, both in terms of turnover and range of services offered. It is a member of FCCIA (French Chambers of Commerce and Industry abroad), which brings together 114 Chambers overseas in 78 countries, the largest private French network in the world.
The FCCGB has got over 600 active members. Its president is Arnaud Vaissié, co-founder of London based think tank Cercle d’Outre-Manche and CEO of International SOS, often named as one of the biggest business “success stories” in the French London community.
The FCCGB’s board also includes Peter Alfandary (Reed Smith LLP), its deputy president, Florence Gomez, its managing director, as well as eight vice presidents, including three British: Arnaud Bamberger (Cartier), Nigel Brooksby (Sanofi-Aventis), Richard Brown (Eurostar UK), Bruno Deschamps (3I PLC), Brian Gosschalk (Ipso Mori), Nicolas Moreau (Axa UK), Christian Porta (Chivas Brothers) and Vincent de Rivaz (EDF Energy).