Tuesday, June 22, 2010

French Politics and Les Bleus

The French national team was fittingly eliminated from the World Cup today, losing 2-1 to South Africa. This follows an entire month of dysfunctional behavior by a team and its coach along with much hand wringing in France. In fact, it struck me that the way the French press has covered the French team resembles, in many ways, the way French journalists write about French politics.

Instead of the general outline of big political events like we get in most U.S. papers, French dailies spend pages and pages examining the internecine struggles within parties, the power plays between low-profile ministers in the ruling party, or the minor debates between potential candidates within the opposition (even though the election may be three years away). The coverage is always intense and journalists love to look for behind-the-scenes strife and to expose the politique de corridor.

In the lead up to the World Cup, the French press began looking for--and perhaps inventing--rifts within the team: the Ribéry faction v. Gourcuff; the old guard v. the young players; those supportive of coach Domenech and those who hated him.

With this backdrop (along with the fact that Domenech's successor had already been named) it is not surprising that things blew up as they did (the dismissal of Anelka, etc.). And the reaction of the team was, once again, typical of French political struggles: they went on strike, refusing to practice on Sunday.

Vive la France.

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