Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier has responded to criticism around comments he made when answering a question about the club’s use of private jets.
Galtier had sarcastically said PSG was looking into traveling to away matches by “sand yacht” after a reporter asked whether it was appropriate, given the climate crisis, to travel by private jet to Nantes, which is just two hours away from Paris by train.
His answer prompted laughter from PSG’s star striker, Kylian Mbappé, who was sitting next to Galtier during the press conference.
Following widespread backlash in France, Galtier said he recognized that it was a “bad joke” but insisted the club is conscious of the climate crisis.
“Even if I love humor and it’s important to make jokes, I realized that it was a bad joke on a very sensitive subject and I saw the proportions that it took,” he told reporters.
“The first thing I’m going to tell you is that here at PSG, we are not out of touch: the club as a whole, the players, the staff, everyone is very attentive to the problem of the climate and in no case are we being careless.
“I heard a lot of things since yesterday, the calls, also today even if I tried to stay focused on the match. I don’t have to apologize. It was a bad joke, but believe me, at the club we are all concerned about these climate problems.”
Alain Krakovitch, the managing director of the SNCF train company, had highlighted that the journey from Paris to Nantes is “less than two hours by TGV,” France’s high-speed rail service.
“I am reiterating yet again our proposal for a TGV offer adapted to your specific needs, for our common interests: safety, speed, services and eco-mobility,” he said in a tweet.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told BFMTV that it is “important that they realize what kind of world we are in.”
“That they become aware that there is a climate crisis that is no longer a hypothesis for tomorrow but is a reality now that we have all experienced, with the heat wave, with the drought, with the fires this summer and that everyone – everyone – must be well aware of the world we live in,” she said.
“So I call on them to be fully aware of this situation.”
Galtier’s comments prompted Greenpeace activists to protest outside of the club’s Parc des Princes stadium before PSG’s Champions League match against Juventus on Tuesday.
They held up signs saying “Climate: No time to laugh” and “Climate: Be exemplary,” while one protester turned up in a small yacht on wheels.
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, France’s energy Minister, told French broadcaster CNEWS that PSG should not be “above” the “considerations” laid out by authorities to try and reduce the country’s greenhouse emissions.
“I think that the reaction of Christophe Galtier and Kylian Mbappé shows how far they are from the stakes of global warming and I think that all French people today have taken the measure of global warming this summer,” she said.
“Global warming is no longer an abstraction, it is something that has consequences on our daily life – there are forest fires, there is a very strong drought, there are floods – and everyone must take their part in this effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not laughable and that’s what’s shocking about their words, to make it something that is anecdotal. No.
“And we have, with Amalie Oudea-Castera, the sports minister, worked with all the [sports] federations, precisely on a sobriety plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport of the staff, the transport of the teams, the transport of the fans who come to see the competitions, and therefore PSG is not above the law, is not above these considerations.”
PSG beat Juventus 2-1 in its opening Champions League group stage match thanks to two goals from Mbappé.
CNN’s Renée Bertini, Marguerite Lacroix and Natacha Bracken contributed to this report.