In the past two decades France’s Bleus have suffered several bleak situations and the team’s current state is not the one expected by the players and their supporters alike. France is still in a “state of emergency”; security and tensions are high : terrorism, strikes, vandalism, insecurity and last but not least a French team watching one by one their defensive players leave the pitch to join the queue in the physio room.
This “Exodus” began some weeks before Didier Deschamps’s list public announcement. A blend of defenders and midfielders as Benoit Trémoulinas, Mathieu Débuchy, Aymeric Laporte and Mamadou Sakho( the latter about doping, but recently cleared ) made the front pages. Since then Jérémy Mathieu, Raphael Varane went back home and there are doubts about Lassana Diarra and Anthony Martial; will they be fit enough to start in the first crucial game against Romania the 10th of June ?
Everyone knows the Karim Benzema story, suspended from the squad when it emerged that he was involved over a sex tape blackmail, featuring his team mate, Mathieu Valbuena. In the past few days the argument around the Real Madrid’s player, Winner of 2016 Champions League has been joined by Eric Cantona who has commented Deschamps players choice, on racial grounds.
The French manager’s lawyers are setting up legal action for only some stupid or a vindictive person can believe this kind of allegations. Cantona is not stupid but maybe he just can’t let the past rest in peace. He still thinks that he was deprived from the 1998 World Cup glory, because Deschamps (France’s Captain at that time) asked Manager Aimé Jaquet not to include Cantona in the final selection. True or not it is well known that Deschamps is a strict disciplinarian: he wants harmony in the dressing room not chaos as it was during his former predecessor, Raymond Domenech (World Cup 2010).
Since South Africa’s fiasco, the French public and Les Bleus suffered “of a désamour”= “falling out love “, but since the Ukraine’s game and the qualification to Brazil’s World Cup 2014 the relationship between the players and their supporters is much better. Of course the “Benzema Affair” woke up old demons, a sentiment of fed-up about those “big bucks youngsters” who are cut off from the people’s everyday fight to survive and Benzema’s photos of his 2M euro sports car and his new private jet didn’t plaid in their favour.
Just after the sex tape tale, polls revealed that only 14% in the general public loved Les Bleus but after the wins vs Russia and Holland it went up to 52%. The players’ visit to Biarritz was a big popular success: 10.000 fans came everyday to the stadium to watch and applaud the team.
It is a long way back to those “glory, glory days” of a summer night in 1998’s, when the French were chanting “Blanc, Black, Beur” the multi-cultural team who brought pride but also this feeling of “Togetherness”. Many of them are hoping to live again that magical moment, but is it reasonable to ask a bunch of footballers to change the world ? After all their job is to play ball and keep their supporters happy, isn’t it.
Nevertheless, let’s hope that Les Bleus will do the job and help unite their countrymen once again under the banner of friendship, tolerance and hope for a better future.
Editor’s note: Lassana Diarra, injured (yes another one !) left the team just hours away from the final list and was replaced by Manchester’s United Sneiderlin.