PARIS - French football giants Paris Saint-Germain faced an angry backlash on Tuesday after coach Christophe Galtier and star player Kylian Mbappe mocked a suggestion that they should take the train rather than private planes for short-haul travel.
PSG notched an easy 3-0 away victory against Nantes to stay top of Ligue 1 on their trip to the western French city, which is a modest 380 kilometres from Paris.
The Qatar-owned side boasted on social media that they had made the return trip with shirt sponsors Qatar Airways but their travel choices have come under increased scrutiny over the carbon footprint.
"Paris-Nantes is less than two hours by TGV," said Alain Krakovitch, the head of state-owned railway company SNCF's TGV high-speed passenger trains, on Twitter.
"I renew our proposal for a TGV offer adapted to your specific needs in line with our common interests - safety, speed, services and eco-mobility," he added.
But during Monday's press conference ahead of the Parisians' Champions League home game against Juventus, Galtier made light of the criticism while Mbappe bent double in uncontrolled laughter beside him in apparent incredulity over the controversy.
"We had a chat with our travel organisers earlier to see if we can travel by sand-yacht," Galtier said, of the sailed beach buggies popular on certain French beaches.
"Mr Galtier - we have become accustomed to more relevant and more responsible answers from you. Shall we talk about it?" sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said on Twitter.
Commenting on how Mbappe guffawed after the journalist asked the question about taking the train, economy minister Bruno Le Maire said: "I adore Mbappe and it can happen to all of us that we burst out laughing at the wrong moment. And I think this was the wrong moment to burst out laughing."
"We must all take climate change seriously," he told BFM-TV.
"It is serious, it is about our planet and about our ability to live on this planet."
He added that Galtier's ironic response was also "inappropriate".
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is waging a crusade to reduce vehicle traffic in the capital's centre, tweeted: "It's not on to answer stuff like that???? Wake up guys??? This is Paris."
According to the RMC sports channel, PSG currently travel to games by plane and also coach, and the team went by road to a recent clash with Lille and may also take the bus to upcoming matches in Auxerre, Troyes and Reims which are not far from Paris.
The La Parisien daily said that the team did not see rail travel as a viable option due to security concerns and problems of travelling by train at night.
"It is not the coach who deals with travel management, but he takes the subject very seriously, like everyone at the club," a club source, who was not named, told RMC.
The controversy comes against the background of a growing clamour in France from ecologists for restrictions on private jet travel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Pressure group Attac had on Friday pilloried PSG's Argentinian star Lionel Messi for his use of private air travel.
"From June to August, Messi made 52 flights with his private jet, amounting to 1,502 tons of CO2 emissions. That's as much as a single French person would be responsible for in 150 years," it said.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel had faced jibes in England in August after complaining he and his coaching staff had a "long ride on the bus" for a match against Leeds United. AFP