Le Chagrin

by Denis Boyles

To narrow the subject of French sorrow down a bit, we’re talking World Cup soccer, France’s defeat, and the decision by the President of France to take the humiliated French team in hand. Le chagrin sans la pitié, in other words.

The idea of having the president of the republic just move on from the quaking eurozone so he can work on something that matters, like the French soccer team, will amuse some Americans (it certainly does not amuse the French, who take these things, including their social and political significances, quite seriously). But the French collapse, shown in the embarrassed grin of Thierry Henry (by Le Point here), has really stung, maybe because the South African results simply verify the fact that the French team never recovered from the last World Cup, when they were serious contenders. The “victory” over Ireland that brought them this far probably suggested as much. Now Les Bleus have just arrived at Le Bourget. It’s chilly there this afternoon.

Has it only been four years since Zidane was tossed from the last World Cup final?  And only five years since Seine-St-Denis – the most riot-prone of Paris’ perilous suburbs – erupted in violence, fed by Sarkozy’s rather direct comment that maybe a water-cannon would be useful in cleansing the place of its scum?

Perhaps to demonstrate that soccer isn’t the only game in town for the president of France, Sarkozy made a return visit, arriving back at la Courneuve, the place where he made his controversial remarks, sort of the same way American presidents visit war zones: unannounced and surrounded by security. The surprise visit, according to France 2, was to meet with police and bus drivers, the usual targets of angry Muslim youth.

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