World Cup: “There is class disrespect towards the French team”

Lhe world of all controversy unfolds this Sunday in Qatar. Didier Deschamps’ team is putting on the line the title they won four years ago in Russia after a suffocating final against Croatia (4-2). Defeated by injuries, the “Blues” are far from being big favorites. Nevertheless, their entry into the match against Australia in Al Wakrah on Tuesday creates high expectations among the public.

François da Rocha Carneiro, historian specializing in the French team, authorFrench history in cramps (Editions Le Détour, 2022), says in an interview Point the story of the bond that unites the French and the national team.

Point: After winning the world championship in Russia four years ago, the French team is eagerly awaited in Qatar. Since when has the national team attracted such public interest?

François da Rocha Carneiro : We have to go back to the 1980s. Until this period, the French national team was considered the world champion in friendlies. He was very good at winning when there was no stake. Everything changed at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The “blues” led by coach Michel Hidalgo and his captain Michel Platini overcome the towers and advance to the semi-finals. A feat. They will finally bow to West Germany in a match as dramatic as possible in Seville. Two years later, the Blues would win their first title, Euro 1984 in France.

So the real turning point is this famous Sevilla 82?

Perfect, because the French team from Seville is finally seen as a team with the potential to win. Undoubtedly, it was a great success by finishing third in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. But it’s the wood that hides the forest a bit: French football was not at that level and suffered a crisis, especially in the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, a lot of work was done, especially with the creation of the coaching system, to fix it. He retired from French football. The saga of AS Saint-Etienne in the European Cup that decade helped spark popular interest in football. It was at this time that the French were increasingly equipped with color televisions, which were now able to watch several matches of the French Cup and the French team.

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Residents of Ile-de-France occupied the Champs-Élysées after the world and European coronations in 1998, 2000 and 2018. This Parisian artery is less frequent on May 8, July 14 and November 11… Is French patriotism expressed by football?

Ever since AS Saint-Étienne celebrated their defeat in the Champions League final in 1976 by walking down the famous avenue in Paris, we have been accustomed to celebrating our football victories on the Champs-Élysées. So I’m not sure we should over-interpret the effect of the crowd on victory nights as the ultimate manifestation of patriotism. I believe more in the identification effect. Patriotism is the love of the fatherland. But our French society is very diverse, people have fathers from all over the world.

The French team is a reflection of this diversity. How do you explain the fact that many foreign-born French prefer the national team of their parents’ country over the French national team?

I just discussed this with my students, some of them are concerned. There is an attachment that drives them to idealize their national team of origin. This team, be it Portuguese, Algerian or otherwise, seems to be one of the last ones to be tied to their country of origin. This does not mean that they do not support the French national team.

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Why some players are accused of not reading Marseillaise ?

The story goes back to 1996. During a political rally, Jean-Marie Le Pen drew on the arguments of the far-right press of the 1930s, pointing to the players of the French team and condemning them for their cosmopolitanism. The president of the National Front adds as proof that some players do not sing the national anthem. He interprets this as a sign of the lack of love for France by the people who are supposed to defend his uniform.

Since this controversy was fueled by Jean-Marie Le Pen, players are strongly encouraged to sing the national anthem. In 2010, coach Laurent Blanc, after the South African scandal of the Domenech era, even distributed the words of the Marseillaise to his players… On the other hand, no one is offended by the silence of athletes from other sports. Who remembers that in 2016, three of the four French Olympic show jumping champions did not start playing the national anthem after the medal ceremony?

There are two weights, two sizes…

Of course. French footballers are particularly noted because many of them have a former French colony as their country of origin. There is more to addressing France’s colonial past than players proving their commitment to France with this song.

After the Blues’ strike in Knysna, South Africa during the 2010 World Cup, public opinion booed the national players. In 1998 and 2000, he celebrated them as heroes. Are we moving from love to hate in football?

Probably yes. Above all, it shows how versatile the crowd can be…especially when given the opportunity. The sports press resorted to hating the coach of the era, Raymond Domenech. The political world of the Nicolas Sarkozy years used this controversy to inflame debates about national identity. Pure ideology.

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Part of the public opinion expects symbolic support from the Blues for migrant workers and LGBT people in Qatar. Is that their role?

Under the pretext that they are on television, they are required to give the greatest political speeches, the greatest public and environmental sensitivity… They have decided to support NGOs. This can be a good lead.

Why does everything about the French team become controversial so quickly?

The French team is a giant sounding board on the one hand, and a form of class hatred on the other.

How is this class of contempt characterized?

Example: actor Vincent Lindon called for a boycott of the World Cup held in Qatar. Why not ! Human rights are not respected and this competition is a climate violation. However, has Vincent Lindon, president of the 2022 Cannes Film Festival jury, called for a boycott of films produced by the Doha Film Institute on a particular theme and directors’ fortnightly competition? Answer: no. Cinema is an art, you see? Calls to boycott the World Equestrian Championship in Doha and the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Qatar are also rare… Why? Because these sports are mostly followed by a certain social elite.

This disrespect is also characterized by money…

Yes, we all remember this sentence by Anne-Sophie Lapich about the “millionaires” “running after the ball” at the dawn of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. We don’t blame the children of millionaires for being millionaires either. So why blame the kids from the suburbs for this? More class disrespect. Being a professional footballer requires great sacrifices from childhood. Also, integrating into the French team is much more difficult than entering Normal Sup. The stats are official! Among the professional players there is a large “proletarian” mass.

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