Monday, June 21, 2010

Why France lost

I am confirmed in my studied ignorance of the World Cup, if anything by the dismal role that France had in its first two games. Even German star Beckenbauer said that the performance of France was unbecoming of a world cup, that there was no team to speak of. That implies no team spirit, no coordination, no skills, every player in their own little corner.

I only watched ten minutes of the Mexico France game, when Mexico was leading 1 to 0 (final 2 to 0 for Mexico). It is hard to see a more eloquent description of all that is wrong with French soccer today, how far we are from the glories of ten years ago. The Mexican played for their lives, with gusto, with fire on their bellies. The French played for… their paychecks? Because they had nothing better to do? Who knows…..

Why is France so bad? Well, I have a very, very un-PC theory and I am going to write it down anyway. Because France has a team mostly of first generation Frenchmen. That is, the sons of African immigrants raised in the unforgiving “banlieues” of French cities, with a justified feel of being second class citizen. They play soccer hard to get out of the ghetto and when they reach major leagues they are not going to risk their legs playing for France when Westchester Divided or Inter Capri is are willing to play millions for their skills.

When France won its first World Cup in Paris most of these kids (elderly players now) played in the French league. Few could make it even to the German league. When they played at Stade de France against Brazil in that memorable finale they might not have played for France but at least they knew that winning the World Cup would open many doors. It did. Zidane played in Spain, Henry played in England before going to the Barça and today Ribery is a German star.

Look at how most teams stand when their national anthem is played and look how the French team behaves when the Marseillaise is played and you will understand much better what I mean, even though the attitude of French players has improved some in recent years as a possible reaction to some cities of France where the fans booo the Marseillaise.

Of course, I do not mean to say that cheap patriotism or chauvinism as you may have it is the guarantee of success for a world cup, not at all. But it is an essential element. Players that go to the World Cup just because they get a pay check for it, just because they know for PR reasons it is a good thing, are not going to carry their team. You need hungry players to explain why Mexcio beat France, why Serbia beat Germany, why favorite Spain failed in its first game. But to recover from initial losses, to get the very last ounce of energy and skill and determination in you to rebound your team, you need to feel the importance to play in your country’s team, for your country’s colors and fans.

Playing in your country’s team is not a reward for a good season at the Atletico Pontevedra, it is an obligation you accept to be the best player, the most selfless one, to play for the millions of people that are watching you at home. Before going to South Africa we got tired of hearing stories about how the French team had the most luxurious quarters in South Africa or Reunion island or who knows where, how pampered they were, how the coach was supposedly using horoscope to finish his line up selection, and who knows what else. Now you see the results. And in addition you hear about team infighting, betrayal, fights with the coach and what not. Pathetic.

PS: traditionally I root for France, Argentina or the Netherlands, whichever is on the field. This year I was going Spain way but their start was less than promising for reasons that cannot be explained as easily as for the French Waterloo. But Argentina looks better and better. The Higain triplet is just a beauty and even if the slime coach is Maradonna I might have to accept that when he is not snorting coke he knows what a team should be doing.


  1. The soap opera of France is very ad to behold, but this is the result of the the failure of the FFF by not firing Domenech after Euro 2008.

    I wonder how Ireland could have perform in the cup instead.

  2. Daniel: it's the curse of the Leprechaun, isn't it obvious?
    That and no more Zidane

  3. This post is revolting and unacceptable. It parrots Le Pen's racist declaration: "there are too many blacks and arabs on the French Team".
    The good thing is people will laugh it off as a bad joke, coming from someone who is so lost on this topic he thinks the final of 1998 was played at Parc de Princes.

  4. Charly12:09 PM

    Maybe there is another element to add. As De Gaulle is said to have quipped once, how do you get a country that has over 350 varieties of cheese to pull together.

  5. Vicente

    1) right, it was the Stade de France and not the Parc des Princes. Correction made.

    2) sorry you took it this post as a Le Pen pamphlet when it was instead a clear criticism of French society in its failed integration efforts for the first generation French from recent African immigration. Surely expressions like "unforgiving banlieues" and "justified feel of being second class citizen" do not appear in the Le Pen racist jargon.

    I suggest that you read it again and correct your self. Thank you.

  6. Vincent,

    Calling any qualifying comment about people of color racist is a mentally reductive non- thought.It is just a parody of what phony political elites demand of us.

    I immigrated to Venezuela.As a responsible immigrant I adapted to Venezuela,learned it's ways and honored the anthem.The responsibly was mine not anyone else's.

    Those who do not do this should be ashamed to have immigrated, and they should hardly be allowed to represent the country they have immigrated to.We do NOT have to immigrate if do not wish to.No country demands us to join them.

    Making this kind of comment a TABU, is a tactic of the non thinking left.It obviates any possibility of really analyzing a situation.If you have Tabus that limit you to only commenting on one side of a problem then that problem is unlikely to resolve itself.

    How do you expect people to mature when their tactic is to blame others for their choices.

  7. Anonymous7:37 PM

    "Of course, I do not mean to say that cheap patriotism or chauvinism as you may have it is the guarantee of success for a world cup, not at all. But it is an essential element"

    Interesting view-points here but I think it's a compbination of other more important factors, mainly overall Player Talent. And the lack of a few individual outstanding players. Nationalism, or pride for the Country, playing together and all does matter in World Cups. A team playing together. But in the end, what matters most is the accumulated QUALITY of your individual players, wherever they came from. More than the Flag or socio-economic circumstances.
    Carlos I.

  8. Carlos I.

    I do not agree with you because the World Cup is different from the Eurocup or any other regional contest where the quality of players and their team work is basically the only key. You will see much better soccer at the Eurocup than at the World one. In the World cup whether we like it, whether we care to admit it, we see a "nationalistic" content that also reaches the players. It might not be the decisive factor, but it is an essential component of the mood of the players: read the interviews they give and you will see that most express way more national feelings than what they will express in other type of supranational events. That is what makes World Cups interesting: the surprise element when some teams transcend their abilities.

    We saw it yesterday again when New Zealand held Italy at bay. Or have suddenly the New Zealand players reached knowledge? What is happening to Italy is also what is happening to France, tired teams, without any fire in them, everyone worrying about their career much more than their team.

    What I hope will come from the French debacle is that the new coaches will worry more about creating a real team than about including as many stars in it as possible.

  9. Anonymous8:31 PM

    Daniel, guess it's semantics here, but I just don't see National Pride as "essential" as you do. I do agree it is an important factor, but not as important as the other components of the equation that I mention. i.e. you can have all the National Pride, integrity, unselfishness and dedication, sacrifice for the team, with mediocre players: Zero Chance. Conversely, you can have teams with huge selfish Egos, independent motives, personality conflicts among players and coaches. With enough Talent, those problems take a back seat, in part because the "disturbed" team start winning. Winning, as they say, cures all ailments in Sports.

    One more thing, as you mention inferior teams beating superior teams with their passion or "Fire". Again, to me that's an essential ingredient for victory, but not the most important one, which is aggregated Talent. You can play with all the energy in the World (Ask any asian team) to no avail. You need Technique, polished Skills in the field.

    Finally, anything can happen in World Cup Soccer because Clearly Superior Teams like Spain, Brazil etc suffer from the "Dutch Curse" -- no Euro-cup team has won the World Cub since 1988 -- yet, more than a "voodoo" funny superstition, it's because of the Format in Soccer. You don't have a best-of-seven series like in other team sports, or a longer elimination process that rewards long-term achievement. Thus, to my dismay, The Best Team in the Planet, Spain of Course, may not win. They have the Talent, the Self-less play, the Nationalistic pride, the Technique, the "Fire", but it's the stupid Format that betrays us.. j/k. Enjoy the games.
    Carlos I.

  10. Regarding what Daniel said:

    I don't know. I agree with Carlos.


    "learned it's (sic) ways"

    As far as I know almost all but a couple of those guys playing for the French team are no immigrants. They were born in France. They are as much French as you are a US American.

    The older you get, the more reactionary you get.

    People very often don't choose to migrate, they are forced to do it and then everything goes in a much more difficult way than it went for you or for me. You have no bloody idea what is going on in Africa.

    It is more complex than what you can grasp.
    Your Gone-With-The-Wind upbringing does not allow you to understand it.

    The reasons you had to go to Venezuela were completely different than the reasons the parents of those players had and the education you got in your early years as well. You really deem yourself so superior.

    Perhaps we should stark breaking tabus and start talking about how people like you become so blind, don't you think?

  11. kepler

    keep it simple

    "Because France has a team mostly of first generation Frenchmen."

    means in the US children of immigrants born in the new country. since this blog has a majority of US readers i tend to use these meanings for expressions.

  12. Kepler,

    Perhaps when you are older you will understand the wisdom that comes with age- until then you probably won't.Your elders cannot teach you this, you have to learn it on your own in time.Age is not something to insult- it is something to be respected.

    The term 'force' implies someone has no choice.People usually have a choice.

    In the cases where people feel they might have to immigrate,they make a decision,and if these people come from difficult circumstances, on the contrary, gratitude should be the first response to the country that has taken them in, and given them asylum.

    Any attitude problem is not justified.

  13. Daniel,
    "Unforgiving Banlieues" and "failed integration efforts" are *exactly* Le Pen's arguments. Maybe you haven't heard him in a while. His racism is founded on the same critique your making.
    Why do these kids feel "2nd class citizens"? It's simple, because even though they work hard, become professional athletes and represent *their* country, people like you keep on treating them as "first generation immigrants". That's where discrimination comes in and that's where your post is "unacceptable" as I wrote before.
    Of course, you know you're just copying Alain Finkelkraut's same racist argument for l'équipe de France (, although your position is slightly less absurd (can't beat Finkel at that) since he pretends the problems between Gourcuff and Ribéry are due to "race" and "immigration" (FYI: They're both white).
    Firepigette: I nominate you for the "grateful immigrant" Ministry. You'll be allowed to test immigrants on this issue and reject their greencards. Wait... That's already been proposed by the FN? What a curious connexion...

  14. Vicente

    Sorry, but that Le Pen uses these arguments make them no less a sad fact of life of France today. Pretending to ignore them as you seem to do is akin to refuse to discuss allowing the veil in public schools, the burka, female incision and polygamy just because it is a "cultural". Different angles, same intransigence.

    That these kids are first generation born (most are anyway) that they feel second class citizens, that many come from unforgiving banlieus is not something we can chose to agree on, it is a mere fact of life with which the French society needs to deal with. That we agree or disagree on the way to approach these issues is irrelevant. That you accuse me of racism in spite of the long history of this blog (I do not remember any Vicente posting before) is simply silly.

    But I do not need to discuss with you further: the recent events of the French team, the debacle of the whole operation, the reactions in France, and more, unfortunately seem to confirm my theory, at least on the resentful spoiled brat part.

  15. Daniel,
    1) Immigration issues deserve a serious discussion. But reductionist tactics that argue World Cup results based on stereotypes in no way helps advance this issue. Your post does more to advance the problem (segregation) than to work comprehensively around immigration.
    2) I didn't call you racist, I said your post was racist (nuance).
    3) I fail to see how your "theory", which is nothing more than a badly-formulated hypothesis in the best case, is "proven" by the recent debacle. Actually, it's the contrary: The implosion of l'Équipe proves the issue is *way complicated* and cannot be reduced to simple explanations. If you followed football, you'd know the "Domenech problem" has been dragging for years as the autism and disconnection of the FFF with the public and players. Imposing coaches and not protecting the players (such as with Henry's qualifying hand) created this communication crisis, which has little to do with the amount of black kids on the team.

  16. Vicente

    I am having a hard time to detect what you are really aiming at, besides the obvious attempt at trashing me, which I can handle having had a long practice at such things. And yet I cannot fail to detect your inconsistencies, which brings me back to yet another reply.

    For example, now I am not a racist but my post is (?). Which you attribute to the shortness of my post, the reductive nature of my ideas and what not. Fine, whatever. However you also add that my post "does more to advance the problem (segregation) than to work comprehensively around immigration."

    It does not because it is not written in French, it is not even written for a French public and to boot I doubt that any one in the French team reads my blog or any blog about Venezuela for that matter.

    And yet I cannot fail to observe that the only one who has used the word "black" in this post and discussion is you. With the added demeaning "black kids" which is an odious extrapolation of my words.

    Anyway, it is time to stop. You made your point, let the readers decide on their own.


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