|24 September 2013|
|The classic French football clash between Paris St Germain and Monaco paled in comparison to the news of France's EuroBasket victory on Monday morning|
On sporting calendars across France, Sunday 22 September was initially earmarked as the day of the most eagerly anticipated football fixture in the first round of Ligue 1, between two of the richest clubs in Europe.
Yet on Sunday night in Slovenian capital Ljubljana, approximately 1,200km away from the Parc des Princes stadium where Paris St Germain were taking on Monaco, 12 'magicians' produced an historical trick that erased those red-marker circles.
It cast an invisibility spell on the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Radamel Falcao, eclipsed the king of sports during that night and forced the biggest part of the Gallic nation tune into public TV broadcaster France 2 to watch a basketball game.
On Monday morning, the front page French daily L'Equipe, the third-biggest sports newspaper in the world, dedicated but a tiny part to the 1-1 draw between the Parisians and the Monegasque, or to any other football news for that matter.
There was not much more space available, as a huge photo of France captain Boris Diaw lifting the EuroBasket 2013 trophy amid his jubilant teammates on the national team, and the headline 'Magiques' was occupying almost the entire page.
The famous 80-66 victory for France over Lithuania in the final was all that the newspaper, or French media in general, or people on the streets, was talking about in the hours that followed the big game in Ljubljana.
A heroes' welcome awaited the France team upon their return at Paris airport, but they barely had time to pose with the coveted trophy in front of the hundreds of photographers and TV crews or attend to the thousands of fans that were expecting them.
They had to attend an urgent rendezvous with the first citizen of the country at the Élysée Palace.
The President of the French Republic, Francois Hollande, wanted to congratulate personally the players and coaching staff on their success and have a EuroBasket trophy entering the presidential residence, for the first time in 78 years - the first time in history.
|Tony Parker dominated the front page of the worlds third largest sports newspaper on Tuesday, lEquipe|
"Today, France is you," a jubilant Holland told the national team members, with the gold medals still hanging around their necks.
"Today, the whole of France is proud of its basketball team."
On Tuesday morning, L'Equipe dedicated its front page entirely to Tony Parker, with the headline 'Equal With The Greatest' and asked its readers to place the EuroBasket 2013 MVP in the sporting history of the nation.
Is Parker as important a personality as Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, Marie-José Perec or Nikola Karabatić? Or do French fans consider him a more influential figure in French sport that any of the above?
"[France is a big country] but basketball is not the biggest sport for us," head coach Vincent Collet told fibaeurope.com in the wake of the gold medal success.
"Hopefully, this is going to help basketball to get better.
"You know that between football, handball and rugby, which are very good, it was difficult for us to find our spot.
"This title will help us, for sure.
Collet was the coach that finally delivered the title that no generation of French basketball had earned for this big European nation, since the very first EuroBasket in 1935.
"You cannot compare winning the French league with winning the French championship, it is for sure the highest point in my career," he said.
"I am proud to be the coach of this team, of this generation that got the trophy after 36 European championships.
"It is the biggest achievement for these players, and I like every one of them as people, I am so happy for Tony, for Boris, for Flo [Florent Pietrus], for Nico [Nicolas Batum], for everyone.
"Even when we were losing, they kept playing every year and never gave up."
"The next step is to confirm, and that is the most difficult."