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03/05/2017 15:15
This referee is a clown!
2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Győr, Hungary, May 3, 2017.  “This referee is a clown!” This phrase is often used in the world of sports when someone is not happy with a certain call. But when it comes down to French Volleyball referee Christophe Lecourt, this is not an insult. This is the truth!

Christophe Lecourt was one of the international referees whistling at the finals of the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship - Men in Hungary. In a behind-the-scenes interview he tells the story of this “double life” he is leading.

“Yes, that’s my job! I am lucky to be a clown,” he says. “It was my first job and twenty years later it still is my job. I created my own company and I was lucky to get enough show to do, and enough money to earn, to stay a clown.”

Since his childhood years, Christophe has had the talent to make others laugh. Whether it would be by reinventing the lyrics to a song he would perform at family gatherings or in some other way, he would always be the funny one in the company and send his positive vibe out to the others. “I always think we must enjoy life,” Christophe explains his attitude. “I may have a talent for being a clown, but it also takes a lot of work to develop this talent.”

However, Christophe’s parents had different plans for him. “They sent me to university to become a teacher,” he remembers. “But life offered me a special chance. When I met my ex-wife, I also met her brother, who was a clown. His working partner had left the country so there was an opportunity for me. The old silent movies of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy influenced me at the beginning of my career and they still do. I usually perform a visual show without words, so emotional attitude makes up a big part of my job.”

While he was in college, 19-year-old Christophe also met another love of his life – Volleyball. “The university studies were not so interesting, but there I fell in love with this sport. Instead of attending the lectures, I would go to the gym every day and play Volleyball,” he admits.

He played for fun, not competitively, but life offered him one more special chance professionally. “There was a referee course offered by the university sports federation. With nothing else to do, I thought - why not,” Christophe continues his story. “That was the reason I gave to my instructor Lucien Domicile, a huge guy like me, when he asked me why I was taking the course. Then he told me to put down on my form that I wanted to become an international referee. And here I am. He just felt it. He has been my Volleyball mentor ever since.”

Christophe Lecourt lives and works in the town of Bethune in northern France. He is the father to four daughters. Does his clown job help him be a good parent? “You must ask them,” he answers. “I think I am not a very strict father. The girls know this positive attitude of mine and get away with many things. I try to be a good father, but there is no school for this.”

However, Christophe thinks that the skills he has as an artist come in handy in his referee job. “To a referee, to keep everything inside is the most difficult thing,” the clown contemplates. “Nobody must know what is in your brain. Emotions should be hidden. For me, as a clown, it is easier to show a poker face. Both as a clown and as a referee, I rely a lot on body language.  But sometimes emotions can help the game - with a good eye contact, with a smile, showing a good feeling to other people, instead of using the whistle too much.”

Of course, any clown and, as a matter of fact, any referee, must have his funny stories. Christophe comes up with this one: “In our small Volleyball family in France where I have whistled at the top level for many years, everybody knows I am a clown. Once I had a show before a match and there was little time in between to get changed and prepare. So I was already up on the stand, when the two captains came to me and said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Referee, you have something red on your nose...’”

How does Christophe Lecourt react when he hears someone try to insult him or one of his colleagues with the ‘this referee is a clown’ line?

“It just makes me laugh inside...”

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