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Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie follows France’s World Cup journey from afar

UPDATED: Thu., July 5, 2018

Killian Tillie wore his jersey Saturday to Hoopfest while signing countless autographs for fans at Gonzaga’s booth.

It wasn’t his Gonzaga basketball No. 33 uniform. It was France’s national soccer team jersey, and he picked it out for good reason.

Tillie was glued to the television watching his native France outlast Argentina 4-3 in the World Cup earlier Saturday morning. He’s been a faithful viewer of all of France’s matches.

“I set my alarm for 7 a.m. to watch it,” Tillie said. “Soccer is huge in France, the No. 1 sport by far. I like to support France. We have a good team and we had a huge win over Argentina.”

Soccer is a global game and the World Cup ranks among the most popular sporting events in terms of attendance and television ratings. More than 1 billion tuned in for the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. The 2010 and 2014 World Cups averaged 3.2 billion viewers.

Tillie watched earlier rounds of the World Cup with countryman Joel Ayayi before the redshirt freshman guard returned home in advance of the French national team’s U18 training camp.

Gonzaga’s roster is sprinkled with international players, including Denmark’s Jacob Larsen, Japan’s Rui Hachimura and incoming freshman Filip Petrusev, a native of Serbia.

Denmark lost to Croatia in a penalty shootout in the round of 16. Japan narrowly missed out on a trip to the quarterfinals after falling 3-2 to Belgium.

The U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup, which Tillie has mentioned to his American teammates.

“Some of them like soccer, so it’s cool,” Tillie said.

“A little bit,” point guard Josh Perkins said of his World Cup interest. “A little bit more than I’d admit to.”

Tillie is interested in a variety of sports. His brother Kim, a former Utah Ute, plays basketball professionally overseas and has been on France’s national team. Brother Kevin played on two national championship volleyball teams at UC Irvine; he’s a standout for the French national team, coached by his father, Laurent.

Mom Caroline was captain of the Netherlands’ national volleyball team. Laurent played for France in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games.

Tillie didn’t play much soccer as a youngster, but he’s always followed the sport. His next must-see TV appointment is Friday morning for France’s quarterfinal match against Uruguay.

“I don’t know any of the guys, but I like to watch them play,” he said. “Everybody likes it.”

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