Dive into the heart of “Wembamania” in France

Betclic Élite – Wherever Victor Wembanyama goes, the rooms fill up. Longtime basketball fans or not, everyone wants to see the giant before he leaves for the big leagues.

When going to the press counter at the Palais des sports Marcel Cerdan, a question comes to mind: do we know in advance who the players invited to the post-match press conference are? ” It’s for Victor, huh?” guesses with a smile Martin, a long-time Metropolitans 92 volunteer, who distributes accreditation badges to journalists.

For this match in the middle of the week against Le Mans , about thirty accreditations were granted against about fifty usually for bigger posters. The public, too, despite a new day of mobilization against the pension reform, is there to fill the 2,800 seats in the hall.

“ We have new spectators, people who almost discover that there is a nugget in France. From Las Vegas , it’s the breaking wave. It was the trigger for the wave in the media ”, describes the volunteer whose own father can now quote two French basketball players: “ Tony Parker and the Victor of your club! “ Victor Wembanyama , the name is on everyone’s lips. ” I think we’re here for the same thing “, slips, in the press gallery, the Franco-American correspondent of the Wall Street Journal who also came to feel the enthusiasm around the French international.

“ I covered the NBA game at Bercy . The three stars of the evening were TP, Magic (Johnson) and Wenby , ”recalls François Beneytou who regularly goes to the Levallois-Perret hall to cover the Mets 92 for AFP. This one, like others, is convinced that the local giant attracts, in addition to the usual fans and an audience of connoisseurs, neophytes. Example with Geoffrey, 37, from Charenton-le-Pont, who admits not “ too much ” following basketball and who was rather “trained” by his 8-year-old son Liam (pictured on the right).

Further in the stands, we come across Corentin, 26, whose back is also covered with a flocked number 1 jersey. ” I’m a real NBA fan to the core. It was important for me to see him before he left. The atmosphere is enormous, we feel that people come especially for him , ”also feels the young man based in the south of Paris. “ I directly canceled a birthday and parties for him! », Enthuses Theo, 28, further. This resident of Issy-les-Moulineaux says he had “ the chance to see him twice in a row. There may not be a third time… ”

Always keep an eye on the ticket office

Théo was already following the Parisian team last season, when “ Victor ” was still playing at Asvel. “ With my friend, we played in leisure. We were offered free places, we came and the room was half full, maximum three-quarters. Now you have to check the box office every day. If not, no chance of having a place ”, continues the fan.

Meanwhile, “Wenby” puts on a show on the field. A big counter under the circle followed by a “coast-to-coast” to start the game, a counter-attack ended after passing the ball behind his back, several “catch-and-shoots” far behind the line at 3-points… And then there is this counter at the end of the game. “ Wenbyyyy ”, then chants the public, while the “speaker” calls to relaunch with his “ Who that? “.

After the meeting, we ask Elric Delord, the coach of Le Mans, if the fact of facing such a phenomenon could have had an effect on his troop. “ What I can say is that it’s not just Victor. We only talk about him, but there is just the best French coach leading this team. There are real players around, like Tremont Waters, TaShawn Thomas, Lahaou Konaté… He does not play one against five , ”begins by answering the technician. Before adding, on the initial question: “Honestly, I don’t know. I think knowing we’re on NBATV has more impact for Americans. »

This media coverage is taking on proportions never known for the Hauts-de-Seine club. Its communications department receives an almost daily quantity – an “ avalanche ” even – of requests for interviews, from French or foreign media, on the same subject. “ It was getting unmanageable. “So the club no longer follows up, because the answers to this craze are always the same.

Even opposing clubs sell his shirt
The phenomenon is exported well beyond the gates of Boulogne-Levallois. Wherever they go, the Mets 92 are sold out. The trip to Blois on February 4? The 2,500 places left “ in a few minutes ”. The local public had checked for a while the arrival of Victor Wembanyama. Same phenomenon at Portel a few weeks later where the club, which had to respond to accreditation requests for the player’s entourage (security guard, personal photographer, agent, etc.), took the opportunity to increase the price. of each place from 10 to 15 euros. A seat in the lower stand thus went from 30 to 45 euros.

Special feature of both matches: the jersey of Victor Wembanyama, an opposing player therefore, was available for sale. The Boulogne club indeed offers it to some of its counterparts. “ The goal is really to benefit all of France, even if it is sometimes poorly received. The goal is not to make money but to bring the shirts to the fans who are in demand , ”we are told. The reseller clubs receive part of the transaction. At Le Portel, a hundred jerseys, at €85 each, were sold. The first buyer would have bought… about fifteen of them. We imagine that this one has a small idea of ​​resale in mind…

The phenomenon will continue until the end of the season and the draft of the young prodigy. Until then, Vincent Collet finds it ” very pleasant ” to play in front of so many people this season. “ It’s even more striking outside where the rooms are more than shielded. It’s always very pleasant when you do this job, we all want these atmospheres rather than playing in half-empty rooms. Here (note: in Levallois) , it’s true that it hasn’t always been the case, we appreciate it all the more. We know we owe it to Victor, we are not fooled. »

The coach of the latter in the France team adds: “ We hope that the spectators will also enjoy what the team in its entirety can offer them. It’s an opportunity for everyone. »

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