Disappearance: François Remetter, dean of French internationals, is dead

The black and white photos do not always pay homage to his famous black goalkeeper sweater with a red stripe: it was thus, in the 1950s that he had crossed his sobriety and his elegance, that we recognized François Remetter, whom Strasbourg supporters nicknamed “Frantz”, and whose name remains forever linked to that of the “heroes of Sweden”, third in the 1958 World Cup. Disappeared this Sunday at the age of 94, François Remetter was the oldest French international, a distinction that now falls to another 1958 World Cup goalkeeper, Dominique Colonna, born a few days after him.

Without gloves or cap, he had been a reliable and appreciated goalkeeper, and if he was not as popular as René Vignal, his rival at the time, daredevil and spectacular, he had managed to play seventeen times immediately in the French team from 1954 to 1957, a rare performance in such unstable times, sportingly, for the selection.

He was the last French survivor of the 1954 World Cup, which he had just played after Vignal broke his arm. Four years later, in Sweden, he started the competition as a starter, when he had played all season with Bordeaux in D2, but the goals conceded against Paraguay (7-3) and Yugoslavia (2-3) had caused him to lose his place in favor of Stéphanois Claude Abbes.

A modern goalkeeper, gifted on foot

He had obtained a 26th and last selection in 1959, for a charity match against Spain (4-3), the day Roger Marche had scored his only goal in blue, but he might have played a third Cup of the world, in 1962, if the France team had not failed in the play-offs against Bulgaria (0-1) at San Siro, where, recalled by coach Georges Verriest, he was Pierre Bernard’s understudy.

His very long club career, from 1948 to 1966, was not marked by any trophies won, with Strasbourg, Metz, Sochaux, Bordeaux, Limoges and Grenoble. He had been one of the first goalkeepers so gifted on foot, had even started a match as a center forward, with Limoges, in Nice, in D2, and had been the subject of a record transfer for a goalkeeper, in moving from Metz to Sochaux for 13 million (old francs) in 1954. But with a strong character, he had threatened to stop football in 1957, faced with salary differences with the president of Sochaux, who had replaced, forcing him into a poorly paid exile in Bordeaux.

There had been a second act in the life of François Remetter. At a time when the common destiny of the best French players was to become representatives at Adidas in their region of origin or to open a bar-tabac in the city of their in-laws, he entered the brand with the three stripes, where he would work for twenty-seven years.

Responsible for one of the scandals of the time: covering the three shoe polish strips in order to protest against the amount of bonuses granted by Adidas

He had known the young Sepp Blatter in particular, in the offices of Adidas in Landersheim, in the suburbs of Strasbourg, where the future boss of FIFA, already introduced to Joao Havelange by Horst Dassler, had seen his salary partly paid by Adidas France, until 1981. François Remetter was the representative of the equipment manufacturer with the Blues, at a time when the brand with the three stripes imposed that they be very visible and very white on the shoes.

The former goalkeeper had been directly responsible for one of the scandals of the time, in the middle of the 1978 World Cup, when most of the Blues had decided to cover the three strips of shoe polish in order to protest against the amount of bonuses granted by Adidas. Other times, other mores: the brand offered a bonus of 5,000 francs per player for the entire competition, and the players, led by Jean-Marc Guillou, had claimed 7,500 francs. François Remetter had refused, the FFF had forgotten to offer to pay the difference when it had cashed the moral contract, and that’s how the players of the France team had passed for painters eager for gain. François Remetter was a life in blue, really.

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