Le foot et moi

Supporters de foot

Let me begin by saying that I am no sports fan. This applies equally and unilaterally to all sports, with the exception of any that I happen to be doing. That means no Olympics, no Rolland Garros, no Tour de France, no golf, no baseball. Not even hockey, my home country’s national sport.

I am especially grateful for having married a man who is not particularly interested in watching televised sports. The sound of cheering fans on TV makes me vaguely nauseous. The inane banter of the sportscasters and their hysterical cries in anticipation of a goal make me crazy. If I had to listen to that every weekend we would probably not have made it out of the starting blocks.

There have been two notable exceptions to this policy. The first was in 1998, the other on Sunday. When I discovered a horrible truth about myself: it’s probably just as well that I’m not a regular sports fan. Because when I do root for a team, I become a nasty, screaming banshee with murder in my heart.

But French. Down to my deepest primal self.

In 1998, we had only recently moved outside of Lyon to the sleepy village of Soucieu-en-Jarrest. We barely knew our neighbours when word came that the final was going to be shown on a big screen at the football field just around the corner from our house. When it looked like things were going well for Les Bleus, we packed up the kids and joined every other inhabitant of our village out on the field at the stadium. Suddenly it seemed like we knew everybody. The mood was high and the draft beer flowed freely. When we won, there was a collective sense of joy that took over every last one of us. We were the Champions! And we joined arms and sang the theme song of our team along with everyone else: I will survive. It was epic.

So when it happened that we were in our old village on Sunday visiting friends, we were not-so-secretly hoping that we could stage a rematch performance on the football field. Alas, it was not to be. Times have changed, our friends explained, and it seemed the town could no longer organize such an event without proper security measures, bla bla bla.

That didn’t stop us from watching the game. And perhaps it’s just as well that no one but my closest family witnessed my performance. In between a spectacular flow of curses in both languages, I would have cheerfully ripped the pony tail off that Croatian player.

And then it happened. We are the champions again!

You can see the difference that 20 years has made to the celebrations in the video below from Le Monde. Due to the risks associated with terrorism and crowd control, the bus carrying Les Bleus along the Champs Elysées on Monday was segregated by police and a separate lane from the public. It zipped through in less than 20 minutes whereas in 1998, the players were surrounded by their fans and the whole procession lasted two hours.

Still, I think that all this sports fan malarkey isn’t really for me. Patriotism, nationalism, bigotry, competition against those who hail from other places. In the end, this kind of display represents everything I detest.

Not to forget the violence against women, out-of-control crowds looting stores and other drunken behaviour that often accompanies such events.

And yet. People need heroes. Kids need dreams. We all need a reason to cheer. The Elysée Palace invited kids from all walks of life to share in the VIP event. Sport can indeed be a great leveler. And so I will probably make an exception and wave the flag for France again.

Once every 20 years isn’t bad, right? And If France makes it to the World Cup Final in 2038, that should just about give me time to recover.

Are you a sports fan?

 

32 thoughts on “Le foot et moi

  1. Made me smile – The LE MONDE vid is very good…. – We were as far as we could get (en route to abroad) and we are so not interested in sport that we relied to our dear neighbours and friends to send me WhatsApp messages and pictures of what happened when and why and with which results… 🙂
    When Switzerland entered the 8th final, I had to ask them WHY they would congratulate ‘me’…. 😉

    1. Ha, ha…it’s funny how we assume our national identities when it suits us, eh? Or how people assume we do, which sometimes makes me smile too. As if I could in any way share in that success. And yet, somehow, we do! 😀

  2. I’m not as rabidly anti-sports as you ( I do watch the Olympics as several of my friends compete in the show jumping) but I agree in everything else. Thankfully neither is my husband sports-mad. However, we were on the île de Ré for this final, so we had to join in, and i do admit it was fun. The same five cars went around the little port hooting while we were having dinner, kids on bikes were draped in flags, and nobody even got annoyed. A big success does bring a country together, if only for a short while…It happens quite regularly in Greece, although we’re a small country (especially in basketball)

    1. Ile de Ré! What a riot you must have had. It’s that small town thing that makes it so much fun. I’m sure I would watch the Olympics and other events if I had a reason to, like someone I know competing. It’s all about that feeling of having a stake in it. Glad you got caught up in the fun!

  3. In 98 I was not more in the supporter trip of my teens and 20s but after the final I deliberately went downtown to draw from some depth of my past me the kind of joy I had so often imagined as a kid in front of such an impossible feast : France beating the legendary Brazil in final ! It somehow worked, with the help of the collective joy around me . I love so much the extremely rare feeling of the collective pure joy, with not a stain of aggressiveness .
    I experimented this once before, on 1981 May the 10th, Place de la République in Paris, when everybody were brothers and sisters . I knew all this joy was based on illusion but, hey, it was extraordinary to feel this and to see young punks and old communist workers singing together with their arms on each other’s shoulders, ah ah ! Metro employees had decided all trips were free that night, so everybody could come and join the spontanous party that nobody had planned or organized . That’s the old France I love, the very one .
    Of course, a sport event doesn’t trigger the same level of happiness as Paris liberation in 44, or the Fête de la Fédération, 1790 July the 14th (this one is the one among ALL I would have given my life to live) . But well, we can only take what we have and the 1998 feast was good for me .
    This year, I didn’t feel a thing, and I see everybody knows it was not the same at all – for many reasons, the totalitarian use of paranoia, the game the French team produced, and several other very serious universal reasons .

    1. It wasn’t the same, but to feel even a smidgen of that joy was still beautiful. You are right, there is something pure in it. How many times in our lives do we get to feel connected like that? Even if it’s illusory, I’ll take it when I can. Growing up in the suburbs, I remember once or twice during huge transit strikes in Toronto when all the commuters hitch-hiked and people spontaneously stopped to help each other. If people can feel that, even for a short time, surely we must be capable of better? I know you are disillusioned, Phil, but as you can see I keep my naïve heart somewhere near the surface. 🤗

  4. Like you, I have no interest in sports. I don’t watch TV and can’t fathom watching sports on TV. I don’t mind doing certain sports, but I’m really bad at everything but Pilates. I came in last or nearly in every race I’ve ever run (but I still run most days. Just slowly). If a ball is involved, it’s worse. Last pick for every team–they would fight over who would be stuck with me….
    I was in Paris for the ’98 win, and it was fun to see. I can’t say I watched the game, but I watched the crowds watching the game. This time, I gardened while my husband watched the game. He was invited to many game-watching parties, but he’s so intent, he had to be at home, not to have any distractions.
    I have to say, Kylian Mbappé seems like a wonderful person to be the generation’s role model, far beyond sports.
    The video seems so unfair–1998 was another era, a time when you could kiss family goodbye at the door of the airplane. It’s not the team’s fault nor the government’s fault that the parade had to take security measures, and it’s no sign of elitism.

    1. You sound just like me when it comes to exercise: a little a lot, never to excess and certainly nothing involving rules and balls! As for watching people watch the game, that’s also my speed. Mbappé, unheard of by me before Sunday, is surely a role model. So young and apparently humble, with his head firmly on shoulders. And as for the video – I thought it was quite neutral but just presented the factual difference from one time to another. Of course you can read that as elitism – I think it’s just realistic. Although sad!

  5. lol – no, not a sports fan, leastways, not of team sports. Table tennis however… -cough- less said the better. Congratulations to Les Bleus. 🙂

    1. I’m terrible but at *it* too but thinking of your earlier post – unleashed about describes me! I also used to love the odd game of air hockey (usually between beers… 🤪). *You say table tennis, I say ping pong!*

      1. lmao! Okay, okay you crazy Canadian-French lady. These days my skills are probably more pong and tennis.
        Isn’t it odd though? Twenty years ago I know I would have dreaded the very thought of ‘retirement’. Yet here I am, revelling in the sense that ‘now, now I can do what I really want’.
        -hugs-

  6. Hello.
    I used to be a sports-watching addict. No longer. At some point in the late 1980s the events started to seem like deja vu to me. Nowadays I watch sports about 5% as much as I once did.
    Maybe I’ll write an essay about this subject for my blog!

    Neil S.

  7. I totally agree with you. I am no sports fan and I truly detest watching it on TV for the exact same reasons as you. But I also made an exception for the final of the World Cup; we didn’t watch the entire match but instead walked to where people (mostly expats from France) was watching. We arrive in time to witness the sheer happiness of these French nationals even if they were far away from home. We were mostly bystander (I didn’t shout or dance) but it was great to witness this sense of joy and pride in the crowd. Luckily, everything was very peaceful on the streets of Montreal and as far as I know there were no incident of harassment and no looting… (Suzanne)

    1. That’s interesting. I wonder if there is a tiny bit of you that misses being in France? Also wonder if you ever get that feeling from any other sports? I certainly have not but then again, the world cup phenomenon in Europe is quite unique compared to North American football, hockey and baseball. The only other time I remember actually enjoying a game was sitting in the stands in Toronto watching the Blue Jays. It was only a few years since we’d got a baseball team and something about the fun atmosphere in the stadium and sitting out on a beautiful night worked the magic on me.

      1. There is always a part of me that misses living in Paris so yes I guess that was part of it. Also, it was fun to be part of it as we knew the French community would be out in force on the streets. There are more and more French people living in Montreal so there was a guarantee of a large crowd. I find interesting to watch the phenomenon even though I couldn’t really feel the same sense of pride. I have always found it strange that people can put some much into loving a professional sport team.

        I also have enjoyed watching some games live (went to a few Blue Jays games and the Maple Leafs (got free tickets) but I wouldn’t pay hundred of dollars to see a game. It is just fun to watch from time to time.

  8. I’m more of a competitor than a couch participant in general but there are exceptions. And this was one. All on our own in our oasis of French-ness here in New England we watched, we jeered, we heckled, we swore and we cheered and cried. We had our Tricolores flying (a big baby on a makeshift flag pole, some bunting and two proud flags on the mailbox) to leave no passer by in any doubt and for a while on Sunday it all felt like home. And all due to Football. I had some interesting responses to my FaceBook Status Update ‘Born in Britain, live in the US, home is France …. oh YES!” But the fact is that I do have a French soul (who knows why), so does my husband (who knows why) and we had a moment of sheer delight that les bleus are the champions once more. But I will save my over-competitive nature for very occasional sporting outings because it is seriously not at all pretty to witness. Perhaps next time you and I should watch together as kindred banshees (with suitable warnings issued to anyone else who cares to join) 😂

    1. Kindred banshees, lol! 🙂 I love that you guys did your best to root for the team state-side. A French soul is a wonderful thing and long may you nurture it.

  9. Remember fan is short for fanatic, nota desired state for anyone. Personally I enjoy all sports, not as a spectator, which I find a little boring, but as a participant. I love to play all sports or games that require extreme effort and sweat. I also enjoy the thrill of movement and winning, although participation is the main fun.
    As a spectator I enjoy watching the elagence and beauty of movement at the professional level. I suggest you try watching championship play with the sound turned off and just watch the action with no talking heads or silly cheering.
    By the way Canada’s National sport is really Lacrosse not hockey as general public thinks.

    1. Of course you are right about fans and Lacrosse — that’s twice in one comment, must be a record! 😛 Oddly, although I rarely watch any games, I sensed as soon as I saw the Bleus in the semi-finale that they were going to win. There was a true ballet in their moves that left the other teams in the dust. So that’s three times we agree, Dad, a true knock-out!

  10. Loved your retelling of the mania that overtook you all those years ago in Soucieu-en-Jarrest (even if you did temporarily become a nasty, screaming banshee with murder in your heart, ha ha). I’ve had a handful of “fanatic in the moment” experiences like that myself — and it was really exhilarating! But to spend entire weekends watching people kick a ball or whack things with a stick? Nope. No, thank you. (Unless maybe the object they’re whacking is in flames, I suppose, but that’s banned now in the U.S.) Thank you for another thoroughly enjoyable read, and for allowing me to participate vicariously just a little bit.

    1. Hmm…whacking an object in flames? Sounds very scary so just as well it’s banned. Glad you enjoyed my trip down memory lane along with this latest round of fandom, however fleeting. Maybe the whole secret is to reserve our collective joy for the big finals from time to time, but boy would I love to able to harness that energy for a good cause.

  11. The victory down here led to much shouting, singing, dancing, car horn honking and, in our neighbouring village of Esperaza, ecstatically happy men stripping off and running up and down over the main bridge in the centre of town, completely naked and waving and shouting.
    The local police made sure no one was hurting anyone and, as they clearly weren’t, they just smiled and let it all happen.
    It was special , OK we didnt strip, but what a feeling of collective national pride and joy.
    Why the hell not? I say…

    1. It’s a shame that a misplaced prudishness made you deprive our godless populations of the best part of the jubilation . Never mind, your local feast looked good despite this .
      (Sorry, my very old PC doesn’t show any “Like” to click after people’s comments on Mel’s blog)

      1. Rest assured, Phil, I have a modern Mac and it doesn’t let me ‘like’ comments either. That little feature seems to be reserved for mobile devices! 🙂

    2. Thanks for painting a picture of the celebrations in Aude. Sounds like you entered into the collective mood of excitement even though fully clothed. That’s quite a feat. What would you have done if it had been England?

  12. I like to watch a good soccer match in TV but usually I just watch Euro Cup or World Cup matches and not our “Bundesliga”.

    What I however can’t understand is how some individuals invest all their energy and brain cells on a single subject, soccer. I had friends that turned into soccer zombies. I am not kidding. Their life was all about soccer. With the result that they had zero subjects to talk about except soccer, soccer and soccer. I did back away because I don’t get this lifestyle. It’s for me the same insanity like those person that follow and worship certain VIP’s, with no other interests. It’s somehow creepy.

    Soccer yes, and maybe if the world cup is won, yeah celebrate it because it can be a fun experience. But some people are so invested in soccer, that they are actually boring individuals.

    I find it sad that we today have to think about potential terror attacks. Being in the public with a large crowd, especially after a recent attack feels strange. When a Christmas market in Berlin was attacked by a lunatic, I walked over our local Christmas in Northern Germany anyway. I saw police patrols with machine-guns protecting the market. I thought about old times and how that was not needed back then.

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