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Football: head of Breton arbitration, Alain Léauté tells his itinerary as a spoiled international referee

Alain Léauté in front of memories of his great hours as an international referee, well just a few… ©Pontivy Journal

Photos of her grandkids are trying to gain ground over those of her summer referee. But pennants and balloons are hidden among his wife’s decorative objects, in their house of Cleguerecclose to Pontivy (Morbihan). welcome to Alain Leautéformer international referee, but still in the gamewhile being chairman of the regional arbitration commission since 2000 – “It occupies the retirement!” he smiles.

He starts at 25 in D3

Among the 1,000 lives of Alain Léauté, who was teacher at the college of Saints-Anges in Pontivy – “I spent 7 years as a student in boarding school to come back as a teacher! »- and was also deputy director ; which was elected to the city council of Cléguerec; who has had other commitments, it is for his 36 years of refereeing that he is summoned…

In 1975, at age 25Alain Léauté starts refereeing, after having just played nine years at Espérance Cléguérec (one of the three Cléguérec clubs which merged to form FC Klegereg in 2012).

Today, one becomes a referee much earlier, around 14-16 years old, one could not become a referee at 25, it would be too late. But at the time we were referees at an older age. I started at the lowest level, in D3, but I climbed quite quickly afterwards.

Alain Leauté

Indeed, Alain Léauté takes the rank: in 1978three years after his debut as a referee, he takes care of the League level ; in 1980at the level of the Federation. “From there, I traveled all over France. Then, all over Europe between 1988 and 1989.”

This is a new rule which will allow it to pass a notch above: the Fifa (Fédération internationale de football association) sets up the touch referees in 1990. A new decade and new opportunities are opening up to him.

We were 7 French referees taken by Fifa, I then became an international judge. I have been all over Europe, and even further, in Turkey, Lebanon…

Alain Leauté

“123,000 spectators at Camp Nou! »

In his memorieshe entrusts a few, such as “the European Cup in Barcelona in 1992, the maximum. I took the temperature of the stadium before the match, there were 20,000 spectators. When you come out, there are 50,000! It’s always stressful. But there, at Camp Nou (Editor’s note: the legendary FC Barcelona stadium), there were 123,000 spectators! This is no longer possible today, it is 90,000 people maximum. »

Another time, when Alain Léauté discovers towns, entire regions through their stadiums, the evolution of which he was able to measure in terms of standards, with more security (no more thin glass walls with Amiens); or the construction of new stadiums such as Guingamp“I was on the Yves Jaguin stadiumon the heights, the historic stadium of En Avant (Editor’s note: destroyed in 2019)before discovering the Roudourou. A Roudourou brought up to date and up to UEFA standards especially, between 2014 and 2018, whom Alain Léauté rediscovered with the French women’s team as a liaison officer, one of his current missions.

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Albanians sore losers

In short. Return in the early 1990sat the start of his international career, Alain Léauté remembers the Dortmund-Turin semi-finalthese prestigious clubs.

I would have refereed for the two cups in fact, the Champions League and that of UEFA.

Alain Leauté

The world of football will get richer, with themassive arrival of clubs from the Soviet blocin full dislocation at the start of the 1990 decadeclubs that will become essential and legendary like clubs in the west. In this lot of discoveries, there are also more or less good surprises, as Alain Léauté tells us.

It was in Albania, just after the end of communism, the club of Durrës played a European Cup for the first time (1994). But they lose 4-1. Suddenly, we no longer saw anyone on the field; we had to manage to get back with the other referees, to go to the hotel, to the airport, to be able to go home. This is the flip side !

Alain Leauté

Since Klubi Futbollit Teuta Durres consistently earned a place in the UEFA Cup, given that they are one of the best clubs in Albania, but did not really go beyond the 3rd round. But finding yourself without a guide in a country in turmoil and whose language you don’t know leaves an unforgettable memory for Alain Léauté.

He didn’t speak English

The language precisely, “Today, it is obligatory to speak English to be an international referee, not at the time…” And the Cléguérecois does not really master the language of Shakespeare.

When we went abroad, we had interpreters. And sometimes, when the situation is deliberately tense on the ground, you have to be careful not to say a word without really knowing it, on pain of saying something stupid. And there… But between referees, it was fine, we moved between referees from the same country abroad.

Alain Leauté

But sometimes, arbitration can take on the air of Eurovision. As during a tournament in the Aosta Valleyin Italy (two European clubs, two countries): him as a French referee, a Tunisian, an Emirati (for United Arab Emirates), a Hungarian. “English is the language of refereeing, but it wasn’t easy… Fortunately, the Tunisian spoke good French, that helped a lot! »

From field to national management

In 1995, it’s the end of international refereeing for Alain Léauté, “I had waited for the age limit, I refereed my last match on my 45th birthday. »

It integrates the national leadership to animate and develop the professionalization of assistant referees. Function that he will fill until 2021, after having extra money due to the pandemic (age limit at 70, he will stop at 71).

“I am still at the Federation, in the training and promotion section of arbitration”, responsibility which has taken him to Paris and Nancy in recent weeks. And so, for 22 years, he is still the president of the Breton arbitration commission.

“More than a thousand matches will be played and we need to find 92 referees”

the head of Breton arbitration uses its years of experience to organize the Guerledan International Tournament, for a dozen years, “it keeps retirement busy! he laughs.

And to continue: “For everything to turn out well, you have to find 92 referees this year, and it’s hard! But the reputation of the TIG makes it interesting for young referees to come. To say that we have refereed PSG or Barça, even in U13, that counts! And it also allows you to progress in terms of refereeing, these are very good formations. The sporting appeal is there. »

He makes his network of president of the Breton arbitration commission work to find volunteers, aged 14-15 to 22 years old. Why is it harder this year? More teams competing at the TIG, “More than a thousand matches will be played” underlines Alain Léauté, in the midst of exams for these young people and at the end of the championships. “But I already had about ten during the preliminaries in Merdrignac, on April 18th…”

Participating clubs may send referees, but do not necessarily do so. A few exceptions, such as a club near Toulouse which comes each time with a young referee; or the American club of Richmond, which comes with 6 referees: 3 guys and 3 girls.

With the Richmond Americans, the referees are really included in the delegation, they always come with it. A few years ago, we even entrusted the refereeing of the final to an American referee. But it’s something else, it’s soccer culture…

Alain Leauté

Welding young referees together

The TIG referees are therefore mainly Bretons, “All come for the two days of the tournament, while they have the choice of staying a day or two. They are housed in families, like the players. And they are together, it’s an advantage, because a referee is often alone. »

On Cléguérec, for example, there will be 10 referees, divided into three families, “They will see each other for two days, it is interesting to weld the team of referees. Alain Léauté knows he can always count on them, “many ask to come back year after year…” The magic of sport.

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