Football Media Watch: Opportunity knocks for France

FRANCE may have gone wild with delight in response to the country’s second World Cup win, but there were still some dark clouds to contend with as Didier Deschamps and his players danced in the rain. CNN said France’s World Cup victory, with a team made up primarily of black and Muslim players, “may have been perceived internationally as a collective celebration of an ideal of social mobility and racial equality, but that vision is deeply contested”.

Over half of French people believe that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right in France, represents a “nationalist and xenophobic” party. Worryingly, a lot of folk look to her idea of “nationalism” as the way ahead. CNN added that if French nationalism needed a focus for its inspiration, starlet Kylian Mbappe fits the bill. “He is, in many ways, the embodiment of the ‘French dream’.” Writer Myriam Francois warned, though that, “in today’s France, it simply isn’t enough to hope this victory can plaster over the cracks”.

Back in 1998, when France won the World Cup on home turf, the team was nicknamed, “génération black, blanc, beur (the black-white-Arab generation)”. This “rainbow team”, led by Zinedine Zidane, of Algerian descent, was supposedly the future of France. The Guardian’s Andrew Hussey commented that, “this moment did not last long and since then French society, under threat from terrorism and its own internal problems, has undoubtedly become more splintered than ever”.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15, 2018: France’s President Emmanuel Macron (C standing) celebrates a goal as FIFA President Gianni Infantino (L) looks on at the final match of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

Another Guardian writer, Iman Amrani, said France squandered the unity created by the 1998 win. “The World Cup wasn’t enough to fix the underlying problems and, 20 years on, France has the same ingerdients of terror attacks, the far right – and a diverse, winning national football team.”

She added: “The fact is that, as wonderful as football is as a sport, the jubilation of a World Cup win can only be ephemeral, so long as politicians don’t build on the energy it creates. This national win could only be a catalyst for change if Macron decides to act on it.”

Bloomberg reported that while the feel-good moment of a World Cup win can bring the nation together, it won’t necessarily translate into a sustained economic boost. Nathalie Henaff of Limoges University, said:“The victory will clearly impact the social cohesion in France: It brings people together, it creates a sense of national community. French people will consume differently, spend more time outdoors to celebrate, change behavior for some time, so we will witness a transfer of consumption. For the economy, it will be marginal. It’s a wash.”

Hermes’ Ludovic Subran forecasted the success may add 0.1 percentage points to France’s GDP. The economy expand 1.9% instead of 1.8%. France’s finance minister, speaking before kick-off in Moscow, said: “A World Cup victory gives French people confidence. There is a part of irrationality in economy, that thrives on confidence, desire and enthusiasm.”

Meanwhile, the Independent wrote that French president, Emmanuel Macron, is hoping for a popularity boost following France’s triumph. He was conspicuously in the limelight throughout the competition and staged a dramatic celebration in the VIP section as France won. Truly, he recognised that football is the game of the people!

Photo: PA