Paris (AFP) – By committing to Saint Petersburg for two years on Wednesday September 21, 2022 despite the banishment of Russian sport for the price of the war in Ukraine, Thomas Heurtel closed the doors of the French basketball team, new episode of a career between shadow and light.
While he had signed before the Euro a sworn statement ” indicating that he was not committed and that he was not considering signing with a Russian or Belarusian club “, According to the French Basketball Federation (FFBB), Heurtel finally joined Zénith Saint-Petersburg for one year and another as an option on Wednesday, just four days after the end of the competition.
The FFBB therefore recalled the rule on Thursday: the leader with 99 selections cannot play for the Blues if he plays for a Russian club and mortgages his chances of playing the World Cup next year, or even the Games. Paris Olympics in two years.
Above all, his signing for the Zenith poses a problem, seven months after the start of the war in Ukraine, which took a new turn on Wednesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed the partial mobilization of some 300,000 reservists and threatened to use the ‘nuclear weapon. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced a new mass grave in Izioum, a city located in the east of the country and just taken over by the Ukrainian army.
In addition, Heurtel has chosen to join the country which sentenced American basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for cannabis trafficking, in a context of strained diplomatic relations with the United States.
Left on the tarmac
This is not the first time that Heurtel’s career has taken an unexpected turn. In December 2020, when he had just lost with Barcelona against Efes in the Euroleague, the Catalan club left him on the tarmac at Istanbul airport, accusing him of having secretly negotiated his departure to the Real Madrid, eternal rival.
According to the Catalan press, it was rather agreed that he sign at Fenerbahçe, who had just lost another French international, Léo Westermann.
After this quarrel, Heurtel and Barça had separated amicably, then the 33-year-old leader had made a freelance until the end of the season at Asvel, before signing at Real.
But everything had not gone well in the Spanish capital, where Trey Tompkins and he had been removed from the group in April 2022, when his club was in the midst of a sporting crisis.
” It’s a technical decision. They no longer train with the team. There is no drama. It’s my decision (…) It’s a final decision “, had then affirmed Pablo Laso, the coach of Real, in a press conference.
Persona non grata with the two greats of Spain, Heurtel is now also in the French team, which he nevertheless helped to win the silver medal during the Euro ended on Sunday with a defeat in the final in front of the ‘Spain.
Masterful during extra time against Italy in the quarter-finals, the 1.89m player had a good tournament overall, despite his clash with Rudy Gobert, one of the team’s two leaders, during timeout against Hungary in the group stage.
In Blue, his career was also made up of ups and downs. Of his feats of arms, we will especially remember the three-point shot at the end of the match against Spain by the Gasol brothers, which had allowed France to dismiss La Roja in front of their public during the World Cup-2014.
” Thomas Heurtel, give me your shorts “, had then shouted the commentator of Canal + David Cozette, making the sequence memorable.
However, Heurtel was not always good at the end of tight matches, sometimes persisting in individual effort when a collective solution presented itself to him.
In Russia, the leader will find two other Frenchmen, Livio Jean-Charles (four caps), CSKA Moscow player, and Louis Labeyrie (33 caps), who plays in Kazan. Far from the Blues.