Paris St Germain (PSG) coach Christophe Galtier and striker Kylian Mbappe have been facing a backlash for laughing off a question about why the team took a private jet for a short trip to a game in Nantes last weekend, instead of using more eco-friendly trains.
Quizzed on PSG’s jet trip to Nantes at a news conference on Monday, Galtier and Mbappe looked at each other and the World Cup winner burst out laughing as his coach responded with a quip.
“This morning we talked about it with the company which organises our trips and we’re looking into travelling on sand yachts,” Galtier said. Asked for his views on the matter, Mbappe said he did not have any.
A video of their comments immediately went viral, triggering angry responses from social media users, environmentalists and ministers.
French Minister of Sport Amélie Oudéa-Castéra fired back in a tweet: “Mr Galtier, we’re used to more relevant and responsible answers from you – shall we talk about this?”
With the government urging consumers to reduce fossil fuel use, both to fight climate change and to ward off feared shortages amid tensions with supplier Russia over the war in Ukraine, Galtier’s and Mbappe’s apparent lack of concern drew accusations that they were out of touch.
“Are you serious, responding like this???,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted. “Wake up guys???”
Ecologist lawmaker Francesca Pasquini invited Mbappe to the National Assembly to “teach you about climate issues, accompanied by your team”.
“Your coach’s ‘joke’ isn’t raising many laughs!” she tweeted.
Photoshopped memes of Mbappe and Galtier on sand yachts could be seen across social media and the controversy occupied the top three trending topics on Twitter in France on Tuesday.
PSG have not made an official comment on the issue.
A source within the club, however, told Reuters that Galtier’s annoyance stemmed from the fact that PSG have been negotiating with French train operator SNCF for six months but the company has refused to organise night trains for return trips after matches.
The controversy started on Sunday when a senior SNCF official tweeted: “Paris-Nantes is less than two hours by TGV (high-speed train). I renew my proposal of a TGV offer adapted to your specifications, for our common interest: security, speed, services and eco-mobility.”
The use of private jets has been a much-discussed topic both in France and globally this summer, with social media users tracking – and criticising – their use amid a series of heatwaves, droughts and floods triggered by climate change.