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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

February 27, 2007

Coup de Tête pour Nice en fête

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We hate Man United. Well I don't as it happens, but this isn't really a football posting so I'll come back to that in a minute.

Where I should start is not at the Nice carnival either, but on the Corniche, which I have just been able to enjoy for the first time since I saw Edward Fox whizzing round its perilous cliffside bends in The Day of the Jackal.

That was a long time ago and I have naturally travelled along the same coastline, from Cannes to Nice, many times since. But enjoyment of the spellbinding scenery is, on the whole, impaired when you have to take care not to drive into the sea.

So I insisted on leaving the car at Saint Raphaël and continuing to Nice by train.

Rail is easily my preferred means of transport and I know there are several spectacular train journeys in the world. But this was a real treat, from the exhilaration of racing along parallel to the Mediterranean shore to the pleasure of trundling through cuttings ablaze with mimosas.

One carnival goes rather a long way for my tastes, and I had been in Bormes-les-Mimosas only a week earlier when Bernadette Chirac opened the corso there.






But the current Nice festival does boast a number of outstanding floats representing the efforts of people from each quarter of the city, and was well worth half a day. We also found an excellent stop for lunch, the Indian lounge, run by a family from Pondichéry and now added to my short list of good French Indian restaurants.

When the procession got under way, the giant caricatures of Chirac (and Bernadette), Ségo and Sarko and the other presidential contenders were especially impressive.


And then there was Zinedine Zidane. Which brings me back to Manchester United.

That statement of hatred in my opening line is also the opening line of a refrain heard, with varying force depending on which club's supporters you are listening to, at most English football grounds.

In France, just now, they hate Man Utd, too. The French naturally prefer Arsenal in any case, given the stronger links that make them seem almost part of Ligue 1. But in normal circumstances, they also respect Man Utd for the mighty club that it is.

The new antipathy follows last week's match against Lille. Everyone by now has a view of the events involving Man Utd fans and French police, and also of Giggs's quickly taken free kick that won the game; there has been comment here as elsewhere.

But limiting myself to the free kick controversy and Lille's petulant walk-off, I couldn't help feeling, as I watched the Zidane character in the Nice carnival parade, that double standards were at play in the French reaction. Man Utd's sense of fair play has been put in question and the referee has been pilloried.

Yet all Giggs did, apparently without breaking any rule of the game, was to make the most of an advantage awarded because of some unfair play by Lille.

Why on earth should a free kick on the edge of the penalty area be delayed to the convenience of the offending team?

Even if that view is open to debate, surely we can at least agree that no verbal provocation justified Zidane's actions in the World Cup final, much as some have charitably expressed understanding of them.

Yet in Nice here was further evidence that far from being a matter of personal disgrace that also tarnished the image of an admirable French national side, Zidane's show of yobbish aggression can be seen as a source of pride.

The carnival caricature had the great man's head thrusting forward as it had towards the chest of Italy's Marco Materrazzi last July.

And the city authorities treated the crowds to repeated bursts over the sound system of that cuddly French hit, Dance of the Headbutt, glorifying the footballer's moment of madness. Without wishing to rain on the carnival, I cannot help thinking that this sends out a depressingly wrong message to youngsters who idolise great sportsmen.

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14 Comments:

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At February 27, 2007 4:28 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

German oil and gas pricing, now. The stupidity continues.

 
At February 27, 2007 4:33 PM, Blogger Louise said...

Do you think he has had a nervous breakdown?

 
At February 27, 2007 4:43 PM, Blogger Roger said...

My French colleagues are much too polite to tell me what they really think of Manchester United, so I don't know whether the man on the metro hates Man Utd any more than the man on the Clapham omnibus. But probably not.

I would just like to point out though that the commentators on canal+ directed their anger at the referee. They had been complaining even before Peter Odemwingie's header had been ruled out.

They did express some 'disappointment' that the 'English' players had not shown the spirit of fair play they would expected. But then Ryan Giggs is, of course, Welsh.

 
At February 27, 2007 5:00 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

And I once heard it said (by a Scot) that the Welsh are like a winter's day: short, dark and dirty.
I think the fairness of Ryan Giggs's free kick is debatable. As I understand it, he took it before the referee blew his whistle which would be an infraction of the rules -- an unfair advantage "awarded because of some unfair play by Lille."
As for the Zidane caricature and the "Dance of the Headbutt," isn't humour a good way to defuse an ugly situation? Zidane is human and showed himself to be so. That's not a bad trait for a role model.

 
At February 28, 2007 9:14 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Zidane's caricature is cheap and tacky. If it's humour, it's the type that leaves a nasty smell after it's gone.
The headbutt was hardly ZZ's greatest moment and glorifying it debases the greatness of his skill.

Basically, the caricature turns him into a mundane yob.

 
At February 28, 2007 12:52 PM, Anonymous Roads said...

Surely it was ZZ who turned himself into a mundane yob ?

Chirac and France have forgiven him, much like Britain (and Blair) forgave Beckham after his sending off against Argentina in 1998.

But Zidane's infraction was by far the more serious, at least as seen from another country.

 
At February 28, 2007 12:58 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

You're right, Roads, my phrasing was a little too generous towards ZZ.

 
At February 28, 2007 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah should not compromise her POV.
The ZZ image could have been his head wearing a gold crown with a red card amongst diamonds.

 
At February 28, 2007 5:34 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Isn't satire one of the important features of a carnival? So Zidane's appearance isn't necessarily a sign of forgiveness or approval.
I think Colin's using a bit of a double standard here himself. Had Zidane been jailed for his foul, Colin would have been campaigning for his release and saying that what he did wasn't so bad after all.

 
At February 28, 2007 8:03 PM, Blogger SH said...

It surprised me that the French were able to forgive Zidane so readily for his loss of self-control, which conceivably cost them the World Cup. It was the final after all. I think L'Equipe was one of the few papers to chastise him, but that one is always scathing on the subject of the failings of French sportsmen, even if they tried their best.

 
At February 28, 2007 8:29 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

In another football outrage, announced today, NBC TV in the U.S. is planning a six-part "comedy reality" show chronicling the move of David Beckham, Posh Spice and their three kids from their homes in London and Spain to Los Angeles, where Beckham has signed a contract (worth a quarter of a billion dollars) to play with the new L.A. Galaxy team.

 
At March 01, 2007 9:34 AM, Blogger Louise said...

$10 million to film Becks an' Posh move house - how stupid, or desperate, is NBC?

 
At March 01, 2007 2:41 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

The sad thing is that they're probably very smart, Louise. They're likely to have a blockbuster hit on their hands.

 

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