Au revoir les Bleus
Posted by John Beech on June 26, 2010
If Schadenfreude is your thing – and you are not French – then you would have enjoyed the last few days in France. The ignominious departure of the lacklustre national team from the World Cup caused a positive hurricane of media outpouring.
On Tuesday, the press was already clear in its displeasure with events in South Africa. Today in France led with:
‘Thanks and see you again’ was certainly tongue in cheek – the article begins ‘After six weeks of psycho-drama, there hasn’t been a miracle.‘
This is how Tuesday’s definitive loss to hosts South Africa was reported the following morning. France Football went with ‘Death on the Field of Dishonour‘, showing the sense of understatement that you would normally associate with a British tabloid.
It was “The End of a World” according to top French sports newspaper l’Equipe. Even le Figaro made the departure of Raymond Domenech its lead story, assuring its readers that his ‘retirement’ was approved by presumably the entire French nation. He did himself no favours with the media – the French TV showed the clip of him refusing to shake hands with Carlos Alberto Parreira, South Africa’s manager, again and again and again. His post-match interview might have seemed statesmanlike on the radio, but casually picking his ear took away sime of his gravitas on television.
Being of an academic disposition, I immediately conducted a survey to establish who exactly the French public saw as being responsible. Admittedly a sample of just one – the owner of the bar in Granville where I was drinking – does not ensure statistical confidence, but he was unequivocal in his answer: “Everbody. The President of the French Football Association, Raymond Domenech, all the players…“
By Thursday morning the whole crisis had escalated:
‘An affair of state‘ it had indeed become. President Sarkozy was supposedly spitting bullets, and Sports Minister Rosalyne Bachelot dishing out public bollockings. She said that she believed it inevitable that French Football Association President will go. FIFA has of course reacted angrily at to this perceived blatant interference by a government into football affairs (1). Gerard Houlier is also featured in the story, although by this point Herself was becoming more reluctant to translate French press reports on football into English while on her holiday, so I’m not sure why. As my bar-owner friend had said though, everyone is to blame.
While there are deeper long-running issues which have led les Bleus to the disastrous situation they find themselves in, the immdediate setting is the refusal of Ncolas Anelka to apologise for swearing at Raymond Domenech, Anelka being sent home as a result, the players then striking briefly, Evra grassing to the press, etc. etc.
Already there have been commercial repercussions. The team has already lost its kit sponsor (2), and Crédit Agricole and fast-food company Quicktoday have cancelled their television adverts with the team (3).
How very different from England’s campaign. Cheeky chappy John Terry had of course come close to becoming a ‘traitor’, as Evra was branded, but I like to think of him as a public-spirited whistle blower. Well, it would be disloyal not to, wouldn’t it? And England had apparently (I say ‘apparently’ because French television preferred to show the Algeria game) beaten Slovenia convincingly 1-0. Of course I believe The Sun report which spoke of “renewed optimism after a performance which was a lot more convincing than the score suggests” (2). I certainly hope so – a scoreline of 1-0 against a country of 2 million people which only became a country less than twenty years ago doesn’t strike me as particularly convincing. Who knows, we may yet see Steven Gerrard, à la Theirry Henry, summoned to Downing Street to explain.
[Normal service is almost resumed. I will be away in Austria next week for a funeral, but plan to get at least one more posting up before I depart.]