France is now, sitting at the bottom of the Group A table, and amazingly out of the World Cup after 2 losses and 1 draw.
The French are naturally reflective of the loss and the mayhem that led to this abysmal reality, but not before some serious drama.
France is sensitive about its world image in the best of times. But when its team self-destructs on the World Cup stage, when it ties Uruguay and loses to Mexico, when its star forward hurls epithets at the coach and is sent packing, when the team then goes on strike, when some players won’t dress to play against host South Africa today, when the team director resigns in tears, when the French public shouts “shame” in the streets and the sports minister is pushed to the cameras by President Sarkozy to call for team dignity, when the world press snickers, when bank Credit Agricole drops ad sponsorship, and the far right blames “blacks” and the far left blames “millionaire athletes” – it all amounts to a national crisis, a moment of bitter societal soul-searching.
Back in the late 90s, racial diversity in the French team was accredited with its famous win. Nowadays, it is a cause for little else than more bickering.
“Now in France a sense of decline is exacerbated by economics, the fall of the euro…a betrayal by elites felt in some places, and in the midst of this the French national soccer team is in disarray. Now you hear the words ‘black, black, black’ about the team. Unfortunately, this will spark our ‘cultural’ divide’ discussion.”
There might be a questionable correlation between sports prowess on the international stage and economic prosperity back home, but social cohesion on and off-field seems to translate to a certain degree.