Ligue 1: France gets its first female top flight football referee, but the federation scores an own goal

Jonathan Ervine, Bangor University

As the end of the 2018-19 football season approaches, a match between Amiens and Strasbourg in France’s Ligue 1 would normally attract little attention. However, Sunday’s game has already created headlines as Stéphanie Frappart will become the first ever woman to act as a main referee in the top tier of French men’s football.

Initially, this appointment could be seen as a symbol of progress and inclusion. But the French Football Federation (FFF) announced that Frappart had been appointed as the main official for the Amiens-Strasbourg match in order to “prepare her for World Cup conditions” ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

The FFF’s explanation seems somewhat begrudging as it makes no reference to Frappart’s experience or talent as a match official. It arguably presents her nomination as a means to an end rather than a logical next step for someone who has officiated in Ligue 2 since 2014. Indeed, Frappart has also been a fourth official or video assistant referee in Ligue 1 several times.

Whether Frappart will establish herself as a leading referee within men’s football in France is uncertain. Pascal Garibian, technical director for refereeing in France, has said it is “still too early to say” if she will become a regular main referee in Ligue 1. In addition, it is unclear if she will referee any more top division matches this season.

It is also worth questioning to what extent officiating at Amiens-Strasbourg constitutes good preparation for this summer’s Women’s World Cup. Amiens’ home stadium can welcome 12,000 spectators, 8,000 fewer than the smallest 2019 Women’s World Cup venue. Seven of France’s nine World Cup stadiums have more than double the capacity of Amiens’ Stade de la Licorne. And Amiens has the third lowest average attendance of Ligue 1 teams during the current season.

Slow progression

Frappart becoming the first woman to referee a match in Ligue 1 is significant, but also somewhat paradoxical. In fact, it highlights the lack of career progression enjoyed by female officials within French men’s football – and across Europe, too.

In September 2017, Bibiana Steinhaus became the first female referee in a European main men’s football league (in Germany’s Bundesliga). But while Frappart’s appointment will see Ligue 1 become the second major European men’s league in which a woman has taken charge of a game, it has taken some time to get here.

In 1996, Nelly Viennot became the first female assistant referee in Ligue 1, yet it has taken another 23 years for the first female main referee. In a top-level career lasting from 1996-2007, Viennot was regularly an assistant referee in men’s football, but never a main referee.

Regrettably, it seems that the FFF has taken the sheen off a notable first. A request from FIFA that its member associations help match officials to “prepare in the best conditions possible” for the 2019 Women’s World Cup seems the main reason Frappart will officiate this Sunday. It is somewhat unusual for someone not selected as a top division referee at the start of the season to officiate in Ligue 1. In Germany, Bibiana Steinhaus had been listed as one of the top division referees prior to the 2017-18 season.

As a referee in Ligue 2, Frappart has at times encountered sexist attitudes. When coach of Valenciennes in 2015, David Le Frapper said that “when a woman referees in a man’s sport, things are complicated” following a match Frappart refereed. Such comments are reminiscent of Sky presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray’s reaction to Sian Massey-Ellis’ presence as assistant referee at an English Premier League match in 2011, when they suggested that female officials “don’t know the offside rule”.

During the last decade, the FFF has provoked controversy when seeking to encourage more women to get involved in football. In 2010, they sought to boost the profile of women’s football in France via a campaign featuring Adrianna Karembeu. Several posters were based on obvious gender stereotypes.

One featured an image of female footballers in a changing room and the slogan “For once you won’t scream when seeing another girl wearing the same outfit”. The FFF had previously promoted women’s football via an image of three leading players posing naked alongside the question “Is this what we have to do for you to come to see us play?”

Nelly Viennot’s presence as the first female assistant referee in Ligue 1 did not herald the arrival of many more female officials in French men’s football. Stéphanie Frappart is still the only woman to have been the main referee in Ligue 2. It is unclear to what extent attitudes to female referees in French men’s football are evolving. It may well be several years before we realise the real impact of Frappart’s appointment as referee for the match between Amiens and Strasbourg.The Conversation

Jonathan Ervine, Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies, Bangor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Why Paris is the perfect city to introduce break dancing to the Olympics

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Breakdancers perform in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
Tutti Frutti/Shutterstock

 

 

Article by Jonathan Ervine, Bangor University

Along with surfing, climbing and skateboarding, break dancing has been proposed for inclusion at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. While fans of the sports have been delighted by the news, it has provoked some criticism too, not least from followers of sports such as squash and karate which will not be considered for the 2024 games.

But the inclusion of break dancing in Paris 2024 would not be a complete surprise. Indeed, there are several reasons why it would actually make sense. Firstly, break dancing proved itself as a popular event when it was included in the Youth Olympics for the first time at Buenos Aires in 2018. Secondly, the launch of break dancing as an Olympic sport in 2024 would fit with the very ethos of the Paris games.

The Paris 2024 organising committee plan to locate Olympic events in two key areas – a Central Paris zone and a Greater Paris zone. The Olympic Marathon will pass many central Parisian landmarks, archery will take place near the Eiffel Tower, at Esplanade des Invalides, and the road cycling will travel along the Champs-Elysees. Meanwhile, athletics events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies will take place outside central Paris, in the Stade de France.

So why does this mean that break dancing should have a place in the 2024 games? The Stade de France – like much of the Greater Paris zone – is located in Seine-Saint-Denis, a part of Paris’s suburban fringe that is said to be the birthplace of hip hop in France. Including an event like break dancing would not just be a big moment for urban culture worldwide, but important for French culture in the capital too.

Hip hop culture is big in France overall. Indeed, the hip hop market in France is now the second largest in the world, after the USA. And since the 1980s, break dancing, rap music, and graffiti have been particularly popular in the often-impoverished “banlieues” outside many major French cities.

However, French politicians have often been suspicious of break dancing. Within French rap music, there is an at times aggressive critique of French politicians and the police. Leading rap groups such as NTM, Sniper and La Rumeur have used their music to blame both groups for injustices and inequalities experienced by young people in the banlieues.

In an attempt to change negative perceptions, several films, including Jean-Pierre Thorn’s Génération hip hop ou le mouv’ des ZUP (1996), Faire kiffer les anges (1997) and On n’est pas des marques de vélo (2003), have shown how important hip hop culture has been in giving young people from such areas a powerful means of expression. Thorn’s 2010 film 93, La Belle Rebelle sought to reinforce the idea that areas such as Seine-Saint-Denis are characterised by cultural diversity and dynamism. The film showed how many varied performers have come from the often stigmatised area, including well-known figures such as Serge Teyssot-Gay from the rock group Noir Désir, slam artist Grand Corps Malade and members of the iconic French rap group NTM.

Professor Dayna Oscherwitz has argued too that hip hop culture has become the dominant vehicle for urban youth from the banlieues to articulate their vision of the world. She says that it allows them to describe the reality of life in the banlieues, and to highlight the problems they face.

Including break dancing at Paris 2024 would connect the games with the urban culture of the area surrounding the Stade de France. It would see the French capital embracing a discipline often associated with its outer suburbs rather than the city centre, and provide a means to engage with young people too. It may even go some way to dispelling the negative reports more often coming out of these areas.

Prior to London 2012, sports activist Mark Perryman argued that the Olympics can, and should, become more inclusive. Crucially, Perryman argued that the Olympics would be more successful if more events were free for spectators to attend. He cited the Tour de France as an example of a highly profitable major sporting event that is free for spectators. Perryman also argued that the Olympics should favour sports which are accessible to participants because they do not require expensive equipment. This last point provides a good argument for the inclusion of break dancing. No specialist equipment or professional training is necessarily needed to begin break dancing.

However, it is important to add a note of caution. If Olympic break dancing is to successfully engage young people from Paris’s banlieues, this will partially depend on them being able to buy tickets. The distribution and pricing of tickets for some Olympic events attracted criticism at Rio 2016 and London 2012. Empty seats were visible at several venues, notably due to tickets remaining unsold or being given to sponsors who did not use them.

On one hand, the symbolic importance of including break dancing in the Paris 2024 games should perhaps not be overstated. However, this one event could help anchor the games within the areas in which many venues will be located, as well as re-energise the Olympic movement for a young, urban audience both in France and worldwide.The Conversation

Jonathan Ervine, Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies, Bangor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Will Les Bleus boost France at Euro 2016?

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Fans cheer on French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.

The victory of a racially diverse French football team in the France ‘98 World Cup was heralded as a sign of a tolerant modern France. Almost two decades on, and a very different vision is emerging as France prepares to host the 2016 European Championships.

Last month, Eric Cantona controversially suggested that national coach Didier Deschamps may have omitted Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from France’s Euro 2016 squad due to their race. In an interview with Spanish sports newspaper Marca, Benzema also accused Deschamps of “giving into pressure from a racist part of France”, while comedian and actor Jamel Debbouze argued that Benzema and Ben Arfa were “paying for the social situation of France today”.

But do Cantona’s claims stand up to scrutiny? Dominique Sopo, head of French anti-racist organisation SOS-Racisme, accused Benzema of “egotistically” taking an interest in racism for the first time. Former France player and 1998 World Cup winner Marcel Desailly questioned Cantona’s credibility and French Football Federation branded Cantona’s claims as “ridiculous”. Deschamps has threatened legal action.

Arguably, it is actually Ben Arfa rather than Benzema who is more unlucky to have been left out. Despite a somewhat wayward career, Ben Arfa has been one of the stars of France’s Ligue 1 with Nice this year. His 18 goals and seven assists played a big role in the largely unfancied team finishing fourth.

In purely sporting terms, Benzema may also feel unlucky after scoring 28 goals for Real Madrid this season. But he is also a player who has not always reproduced his club form at international level.

In addition, he has also been making headlines for off-field matters after allegations – yet to be heard in court – that he was involved in attempts to blackmail international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over an alleged sex tape. While the French Football Federation has said that “sporting performance is an important factor but not the only one” when it comes to selecting the squad, it has previously commented that the allegations were not damaging to the sport’s image in the run-up to the championship.

A beautiful game?

The “affaire Benzema” reminds of previous controversies that have tainted the French national football team. In 2011, senior figures from the French Football Federation reportedly discussed potentially limiting the number of black and North African players in training academies. Then national team boss Laurent Blanc was part of the discussions, but exonerated of any wrong-doing by federation bosses.

One may well ask what has gone wrong for the French football team since 1998. In the short term, their success continued with victory in the 2000 European Championships. Since then, problems have surfaced both on and off the pitch.

The celebrating of the “black, blanc, beur team” of 1998 glossed over certain realities. The West African, white European and North African roots of the team masked divisions within France. Indeed, there was much talk of “la fracture sociale” (social division) in 1990s France.

When France defended their World Cup title in 2002, they were eliminated in the first round. This was also the year when the Front National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked many by reaching the second round of France’s presidential elections.

With the exception of the 2006 World Cup, France have arguably disappointed at all the major finals they have reached from 2002 onwards. Teams have displayed potential but not the overall cohesion and individual flair of the 1998 generation.

Criticism from all corners

The behaviour of French footballers has also been criticised by politicians and journalists on several occasions. This reached a peak at the 2010 World Cup when the French squad refused to train following the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka for insulting team boss Raymond Domenech. Players have subsequently been under pressure to both perform on the pitch and behave off the pitch.

However, tense relations between the French football team and the media can be traced back further. Even in 1998, national team boss Aimé Jacquet was frustrated at the negativity of sports paper L’Equipe preceding the tournament.

In 2012, French football magazine So Foot argued that France was a “country that has never understood anything about football” to explain “why France doesn’t like its footballers”. These comments may sound sensationalist, but many French intellectuals and politicians showed little interest in football prior to 1998.

After 2015 was bookended by the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo offices in January 2015 and terrorist attacks in Paris last November, French morale is clearly in need of a lift. The Stade de France, as a location targeted by terrorists in the latter attack, takes on a particular significance as it hosts the opening and closing games.

Some may ask if the current generation of French footballers is capable of providing the nation with this lift. However, this is perhaps not the right question to ask. Instead, it is worth considering to what extent footballers should be held responsible for the national mood in such troubling times.

French footballers are at times easy scapegoats and their behaviour has not always been impeccable in recent years. However, focusing on their misdemeanours risks diverting attention away from social, political and economic challenges that France is facing.

The Conversation

Jonathan Ervine, Senior Lecturer in French, Head of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Bangor University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Football and language in France

Language of football

I was delighted to be mentioned in a fascinating article by Richard Furlong that has appeared on the blog Language of Football. In the first of a series about the countries competing in this summer’s European Championships, he discusses debates about football and language in France.

I’ve also enjoyed the cultural, sporting and linguistic insights provided by Language of Football, so I’d strongly recommend checking it out if you have a love of football and a love of language.

Talking of football, I’m currently working on an article for the website The Conversation about football and identity in France. I’ll be sharing it here as well, so watch this space…

 

Why Dieudonné’s quenelle gesture poses challenges for Britain and France

Last week, I presented a conference paper about a controversial gesture that links French footballer Nicolas Anelka and the comedian Dieudonné. Here’s an article about this topic that I published on the website The Conversation in 10th February this year about this topic. I am reproducing this article in accordance with the terms and conditions of their Creative Commons license.

By Jonathan Ervine, Bangor University

French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala has been acquitted over a video in which he called for the release of a man who tortured and murdered a Jew in 2006. The court ruled it could not prove he was behind the video’s release.

But this is far from the only controversy to surround him recently. In addition to recently being banned from performing shows at several venues in France, this week Dieudonné was banned from entering the UK.

It is largely the quenelle gesture that has caused all the fuss, on this side of the channel at least. It was largely unknown in Britain prior to reactions to Nicolas Anelka’s decision to perform this salute after scoring for West Bromwich Albion against West Ham on December 28, 2013. One could make precisely the same point about Dieudonné himself, with whom Anelka was seeking to demonstrate solidarity.

Some eagle-eyed film goers might have recognised Dieudonné from the role he played in the 2002 film Astérix and Obélix Meet Cleopatra. Others might have been aware of occasional UK press coverage devoted to allegations of anti-Semitism that have been levelled at him following on and off-stage declarations, as well as his various convictions for inciting hatred.

For some, the quenelle is an anti-Semitic gesture but others, such as Anelka, seek to play it down as being merely anti-system. Roger Cukierman of The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) stated that the quenelle is not anti-Semitic when performed in “in a place that has no significance for Jews”. But since making these comments Cukierman has criticised Anelka for choosing to express solidarity with Dieudonné.

On the other hand French government spokesperson Najat Vallaud Belkacem has said that it would be “incredibly stupid or incredibly naïve” to interpret the quenelle as being anti-system and not anti-Semitic.

But it’s clear that there is division among Jewish groups as to how to interpret the quenelle. Mark Gardner of the Jewish organisation Community Security Trust has suggested that the way in which Dieudonné and his close allies refer to Jews and Jewish groups means that their “anti-system” approach can be perceived as also being anti-Semitic.

The complexities that stem from differing interpretations of what the quenelle denotes – explicitly and implicitly – may well explain why almost a month elapsed between Anelka performing the gesture and the Football Association issuing him with a disciplinary charge. Although Anelka declared that he would not repeat his quenelle goal celebration two days after the match where he performed it, he has continued to seek to justify the gesture.

In so doing, he has adopted a similar defence to French footballer Samir Nasri, who was photographed performing the gesture outside Manchester City’s training ground in autumn 2013.

Dieudonné encourages his followers to submit pictures of themselves performing the quenelle to his website and he displays a large gallery of examples. His use of the web, and in particular social media, has become increasingly important at a time when he is rarely interviewed by the mainstream media in France and has had several shows banned due to public order concerns and the state’s desire to reflect upon “how to prevent the repeated inciting of hate and racial discrimination and remarks that infringe upon human dignity” .

In so doing, the French state has had to attempt to balance freedom of expression with its concerns about maintaining public order.

But the strategies of both the UK and French governments could be seen as contributing to the pariah-like status that Le Monde journalist Benoît Hopquin sees as playing a key role in Dieudonné’s “route to success”.

During the six weeks that have elapsed since Anelka’s goal celebration made headlines, Dieudonné’s number of followers on Twitter appear to have trebled. There has also been a 60% increase in the number of “likes” for his Facebook page. His official Facebook page recently shared a video of an English language report on France24 about his ban from the United Kingdom. It appeared to celebrate the ban via the inclusion of the phrase “the quenelle is not stopping its world tour”.

Publicity gained through controversy is largely what keeps Dieudonné in the news. Somewhat paradoxically, the more he is portrayed as an outcast the larger the following he gains. If the potential of his on and off-stage declarations to inflame tensions – and the extent to which they are propagated – is to be reduced, it is perhaps time for the UK and France to think carefully about how they manage such a challenging situation.

The Conversation

Jonathan Ervine does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

What football team does Francois Hollande support?

Francois Hollande football

The French, English and Scottish football seasons have all started during the last few weeks and this has got me thinking about differences in attitudes to football and the two sides of the Channel. For example, I recently realized that I knew of the favourite football teams of all but one of the UK prime ministers from during my lifetime but could only name the preferred club of one French president from the same period.

When it comes to UK prime ministers, it makes sense to start with Thatcher as her arrival at 10 Downing Street occurred in the same year as my own arrival in the maternity wing of Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Her successor as prime minister, John Major, once said that Thatcher “dutifully turned up to watch great sporting events, but always looked rather out of place”; London 2012 chairman Seb Coe argued that ”she never really understood sport until it migrated – and sometimes mutated – beyond the back page, or impacted on other areas of policy”.

The favourite teams of her successors as prime minister are as follows: Chelsea (John Major), Newcastle United (Tony Blair), Raith Rovers (Gordon Brown) and Aston Villa (David Cameron). Tony Blair has talked of his childhood memories of watching Newcastle United at St. James’s Park and the mis-reporting of these recollections once sparked debate over Blair apparently having allegedly claimed to recall watching a famous player who had in fact in retired before Blair started watching Newcastle.

Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair, grew up supporting a local team. In Brown’s case, it was Raith Rovers, a team who play in the Fife town of Kirkcaldy. As a Scottish politician with aspirations in the UK parliament, Brown at times faced criticism for underplaying his Scottish roots in order to appeal to a predominantly English UK electorate. A prime example came when he talked of his fond memories of seeing Paul Gascoigne score for England against Scotland at Wembley in the 1996 European Championships.

Current UK prime minister David Cameron claims to support Aston Villa as they were one of the teams who played in the first match that he attended. As Cameron was brought up in Berkshire, he cannot claim that this choice involved following his local team or represents his roots in the same way that Blair or Brown have at times sought to. However, those who see Cameron’s Conservative party as being dominated by a rich elite might feel it appropriate that the prime minister supports a team whose name includes the word ‘villa’.

When it comes to French presidents from 1979 onwards, until recently I only knew that Nicolas Sarkozy was a fan of Paris Saint-Germain. Sarkozy’s presidency, and that of current head of state Francois Hollande, show that publicly demonstrating enthusiasm for sport as a French politician is not always well received. Sarkozy’s enthusiasm for jogging was criticized by right-wing intellectual Alain Finkielkraut for being somewhat unpresidential.

During this summer’s World Cup, Francois Hollande’s enthusiasm for football was criticized by Luc Ferry who – like Sarkozy – is a member of the centre right UMP party that is currently in opposition. Ferry complained about a generation of politicians who he claimed ‘prefer football to the economy or philosophy or history‘ and accused Hollande of abandoning his responsibilities to the French nation by organizing a screening of one of France’s World Cup games in the Elysee Palace, the official residence of the French president. Ferry was not alone in criticizing Hollande for his interest in following the World Cup as this article shows.

In a situation that some would say has parallels with his private life, it appears that Hollande has not been a faithful to a single football team. He has talked of having initially been a fan of FC Rouen due originally being from the Normandy town and having played for their youth teams. However, he has also evoked his liking for Breton sides Nantes and Guingamp as well as his long-held interest in Monaco. Elsewhere, it has been reported that he is a fan of both Monaco and Barcelona.

These attitudes to supporting a football team are in stark contrast to the notion that being a supporter is about remaining loyal to a single team no matter how they are performing. However, it is generally much rarer for public figures in France to show an interest in football and it seems that a lot fewer French people than Brits actually have a favourite team.

Although the size of the French and UK populations is very similar, France is a much larger country in terms of area but has many fewer football teams. While there are 92 league teams in England (and a further 24 teams in a national non-league division immediately below the football league) and 42 in Scotland, there are only 58 teams (of whom no more than 46 can be professional) in France’s three national football leagues.

Consequently, the size and number of teams in France means that it is possible to be quite far from a  league football team. As demonstrated by this map of where Ligue 1 teams are located, this is particularly likely to be the case for people living in central France. Additional maps show that this trend is somewhat less prevalent where Ligue 2 teams are concerned but is certainly true when it comes to the teams who compete in Le Championnat National (the third tier of French football).

Although the criticism of French politicians’ interest in sport in many ways points to differing attitudes towards football on the different sides of the Channel, it is nevertheless the case that politicians in both countries are also happy to exploit the sport when it suits and when their national team is doing well. It may be more acceptable for British rather than French politicians to show an interest in football, but France’s 1998 World Cup victory showed that politicians on all sides are happy to exploit football when it can be held up as a positive symbol of French society and the French nation.

 

How important is it what football team a politician supports? To what extent should politicians take an interest in sport and do they always do so in a sincere manner? Feel free to let me know via the comments box below, I’d really welcome feedback on what I’ve said here.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen. You can also follow me on Twitter and like this blog’s page on Facebook.

 

 

Race, identity and football in France

As the French football team is currently competing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it seems appropriate to focus on football in the first post on my new research blog. I speak as both an academic and a football fan here. I grew up with a real passion for football and have more recently co-edited two special editions of journals that have examined the topics of sport, media and national identity in a French and Francophone context.

This week, I was interviewed about these topics on BBC Wales after France-born Cameroon international Benoit Assou-Ekotto claimed that he had never had any interest in playing for France because black and Muslim players are the ones blamed when the team has a bad result.

The BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru studios in Bangor.

The BBC Radio Wales studios in Bangor.

In purely sporting terms, one might well ask if Benoit Assou-Ekotto would actually have been selected for the French national team if he had not decided to represent Cameroon due to it being the country of his father’s birth. Assou-Ekotto is a left-back and France are currently well-served in this position. Their World Cup squad includes Patrice Evra of Manchester United and Lucas Digne of Paris Saint-Germain; Manchester City’s Gael Clichy wasn’t even included in the group of 23 players selected by national coach Didier Deschamps.

However, does Benoit Assou-Ekotto have a valid point about attitudes to the French national football team? Although the diversity of the French national team was celebrated by politicians and political figures when Les Bleus won the World Cup in 1998, a very different picture emerged in 2010. After poor results on the pitch and perceived bad behaviour off  the pitch, Minister for Sport and Health Roselyne Bachelot criticized players who she said behaved like ‘neighbourhood gang leaders’. A fellow member of the centre-right UMP branded the players racailles, a term with similar connotations to English words such as scum or chavs.

Although these comments did not explicitly focus on race, they provided one of many examples of politicians and public figures in France seeking to blame footballing failures on the presence of players who grew up in areas known as banlieues (often run-down suburbs). Many banlieues are characterized by having an above average percentage of residents who are immigrants (or descended from immigrants) and/or members of ethnic minorities.

 

Fans cheer on French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.

Fans cheer on French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.

As has been mentioned by US-based academic Laurent Dubois, the French Football Federation was itself at the centre of a scandal involving allegations of racism in 2011. The investigative website MEDIAPART obtained a tape of a meeting where senior figures in the federation appeared to discuss the possibility of limiting the numbers of black and Arab players at national training academies. Despite the controversy, the vast majority of those recorded escaped any form of punishment.

The discussion of potentially introducing quotas was in part a reaction to the fact that some players who attend national training academies in France end up representing countries other than France.  Indeed, Dubois earlier this year argued in an article in the journal Contemporary French Civilization that there were effectively two French teams at the 2010 World Cup due to the presence of both France and also an Algerian squad featuring many French-born players.

As Dubois pointed out, many French-born players who represent other countries may not have been likely to have been considered good enough to represent France in the first place. Assou-Ekotto was once reportedly told that he could have a role to play in the French under-16 team while a youth team player at French team Lens. However, there are many players who earn youth team caps but do not go on to establish themselves as members of the full national side when they are older.

On the eve of the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, I wrote an article on the website French Football Weekly in which I discussed the misbehaviour of attacker Nicolas Anelka and the subsequent strike of his team mates at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I argued that this situation meant that France were then under pressure to create more positive headlines, a quest which by hampered by Samir Nasri swearing at a journalist after France’s quarter-final elimination by Spain.

Paris celebrated as France's 2012 Olympic team returned home, but what sort of reaction will greet the national football team after this year's World Cup in Brazil?

Paris celebrated as France’s 2012 Olympic team returned home, but what sort of reaction will greet the national football team after this year’s World Cup in Brazil?

With the far right Front National having gained more French MEPs than any other party in this year’s European elections, it may be that their leader Marine Le Pen will jump on the bandwagon and criticize the national football team if they fail or misbehave in Brazil. Her father, the former Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, has previously courted controversy by accusing black players of not singing the Marseillaise before France matches and suggesting that he couldn’t identify with a team composed of so many players from immigrant and ethnic minority backgrounds.

As fate would have it, a problem with the stadium public address system in Porto Alegre meant that the Marseillaise was not played before France’s opening World Cup match against Honduras last Sunday. The 3-0 win may temporarily have silenced those who criticized Les Bleus after a first leg play-off defeat against Ukraine last autumn threatened their chances of even making it to Brazil. However, there are bigger challenges ahead for Didier Deschamps’ team both in Brazil and potentially also back home in France if their performances and behaviour do not reach the standards required to compensate for what happened in South Africa in 2010.

 

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