French politicians heaped criticism on Paris Saint-Germain's coach after he fobbed off concerns about the soccer team's chartered flights during a national drive to save energy.
When asked at a news conference on Monday if PSG considered using more eco-friendly trains instead of flying to matches, coach Christophe Galtier quipped sarcastically that they might instead switch to using sail power to transport its millionaire players.
Galtier initially smiled at the question, shook his head and pinched his nose, and star striker Kylian Mbappe erupted with laughter.
After composing himself, Galtier said: "I thought I would get that question. To be very honest with you, this morning we spoke with the company that organises our trips, and we're trying to see if we can travel by sand yacht."
Their sniggering response set off a media storm in France.
An array of politicians reacted with anger and French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera fired back in a tweet: "Mr. Galtier, we're used to more relevant and responsible answers from you - shall we talk about this?"
Galtier admitted after PSG's win 2-1 over Juventus in a Champions League match on Tuesday that his joke was in bad taste.
But he strongly rejected claims the French club is not concerned by climate issues and cited a recent trip to Lille by road that lasted two hours 45 minutes.
"I have players who pay a lot of attention to the climate," he said. "We are aware of the climate issues."
With the government urging consumers to reduce fossil fuel use, 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.
"No, is that how you respond ???? Guys, will you wake up ???" tweeted Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
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.
Even France's prime minister weighed in. "It's important that they realise what world we live in, realise that there's a climate crisis," Elisabeth Borne said.
The debate about PSG's use of short-haul flights started when an executive for France's high-speed rail network called out the club for flying its players on a short hop from Paris to Nantes last weekend.
In response to questions from The Associated Press, PSG said there weren't any late-night TGV trains they could have taken back to Paris after the match, which would have forced the team to spend the night in Nantes.
The club said the team was making increasing use of buses for short trips.