France captain Wendie Renard said on Friday that she will not play at this year’s Women’s World Cup to preserve her mental health, adding that she “can no longer support the current system.”
Two other players, Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani, followed suit later on Friday.
Renard, who is widely considered to be one of the best defenders in women’s football, played for France in international games against Norway, Denmark and Uruguay earlier this month.
The 32-year-old has 142 caps for France and plays for French side Lyon.
According to a report in French multimedia outlet RMC Sport, Renard will not play for the national team as long as coach Corinne Diacre is in charge.
Renard was stripped of the France captaincy by Diacre following their quarterfinal exit at Euro 2017, before regaining it in 2021. Diacre has previously attracted criticism from other French players, including Gaetane Thiney and Sarah Bouhaddi.
“I love France more than anything, I am not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer support the current system, which is far from the requirements of the highest level,” Renard said in a statement on social media.
“It is a sad day but necessary to preserve my mental health. It is with a heavy heart that I come to inform you of my decision to step back from the French team.
“Unfortunately, I will not be playing in this World Cup under such conditions. My face may hide the pain but my heart is suffering… and I don’t want to suffer anymore.”
Shortly after Renard’s statement, Katoto and Diani, who have made a combined 114 appearances for France and both play for Paris Saint-Germain, voiced their support for the 32-year-old and announced that they would be stepping down from the national team until changes are made.
“Following the press release of our captain Wendie Renard and in view of the recent results and management of the french national team, I announce that I am suspending my international obligations in order to concentrate on my career at club level,” Diani said on social media.
“I am the first fan of the French team and if the necessary changes are finally made, I will return…”
In a statement released after the trio’s withdrawals, the French Football Federation (FFF) said it would take up the issue when its executive committee meets on Feb. 28, adding that “The FFF would like to reiterate that no individual is above the institution that is the French national team.”
The French soccer players’ union, known as UNFP, called the three players “extremely brave” for speaking out, and implored the French Football Federation to implement necessary changes.
“This cry of alarm must serve as a catalyst, and push the parties concerned to consider the concrete consequences of how far we’ve fallen behind over the years,” the UNFP said in a statement.
This year’s World Cup, co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, will take place from July 20 to Aug. 20.
France have been drawn into Group F alongside Jamaica, Brazil and Panama. They begin their group campaign on July 23 against Jamaica.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.