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April 21, 2014

New migration flows

German coaches in Turkish football have a long tradition. 40 years ago, Horst Buhtz was the first one, winning the Cup with Beşiktaş in the 1974/75 season. Since then there have been several dozens of them, often great names like Karlheinz Feldkamp or Jürgen Röber or, more recently, Christoph Daum, Bernd Schuster, or Michael Skibbe. They were sure to be welcomed like saviours by both the fans and the press. Even if in most cases they used the Turkish league as a stepping stone for a career re-start after having been fired in Germany – like Joachim Löw, when he took over Fenerbahçe in 1998-99 – they were endowed with the halo of German football and expected to bring the know-how, methods and serious business manners of a ‘civilised’ football nation to an ‘underdeveloped’ country.

Galatasaray observe a minute of silence at for Jupp Derwall in 2007.

Jupp Derwall, the most important of this large cohort of German ‘missionaries’, is still today revered as the man who changed Turkish football for the better in the 1980s. Winner of the 1980 European Championship and finalist of the 1982 World Cup, he was ousted by the German federation after a very poor showing of the Nationalmannschaft at Euro84 in France. He went beyond introducing modern training methods to clubs and imposing discipline on players, by changing the very structures of Turkish football, especially with regard to youth training and scouting. When he was offered the position of national coach in 1990, he gracefully declined, suggesting his colleague and compatriot Sepp Piontek instead, who took Fatih Terim as assistant. When Derwall died at age 80 in 2007, the funerals in the Saarland were attended by an impressive Turkish delegation.

In spring 2014, perspectives have changed. For the first time ever, a Bundesliga club in need of replacing their coach went headhunting in Turkey. Tayfun Korkut, born in 1974, the year in which Horst Buhtz went to Istanbul, was entrusted with the difficult task of saving Hannover 96 from relegation. Today, with only three games left and 35 points in the league table, it seems he has succeeded and will thus have the opportunity to continue next season, making his own imprint on the team and its composition and becoming a familiar face in the Bundesliga.

Tayfun Korkut at his first Hannover 96 press conference.

What Hannover was looking for, however, was not necessarily a ‘Turkish’ coach, but a truly European one, representative of a very mobile migrant generation. True, Korkut, who had played 42 times for Turkey in the 1990s and early 2000s, had been assistant to the Turkish national coach, when they hired him, but as a matter of fact this had been his first and only year of engagement in Turkey after coaching youth teams in the reputed training centres of San Sebastian, Hoffenheim and Stuttgart for seven years.

In his press conferences, Tayfun Korkut’s remarkably eloquent German reveals the entire German socialisation he has undergone. Nothing but the consonance of his name distinguishes him from other Bundesliga coaches of his generation, such as Thomas Tuchel, Robin Dutt or Jürgen Klopp. Besides the fact that he, unlike the other three, also speaks fluent Turkish and Spanish.

Tayfun Korkut’s career deserves to be followed closely. Juggling with loyalties to three different countries and very obviously feeling at home in each of them, he is a revealing illustration of new European migration flows. It will be interesting to see what his next year in the Bundesliga will look like and how, eventually, his inevitable departure from Hannover will be dealt with by media and supporters. And in a more distant future, while I am not certain if there ever was a Turkish head coach in the Spanish Liga, I might have an idea who might become the first one.

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April 1, 2014

Business as usual

'We light up the football'

While European political leaders are trying to find suitable responses to Russia’s quiet annexion of Crimea, going so far as to cancel the planned G8 meeting in Sochi, European football leaders carry on business as usual. In living rooms all across the continent this week’s broadcasts of the Champions League quarter finals will be opened by a video clip promoting … Gazprom. ‘We light up the football!’, it proclaims, to the triumphant sounds of Tchaikowsky’s piano concerto. From Moscow with love…

Of course, ‘football should not be mixed with politics’, as the mantra of all institutional actors in international football has been going for decades. Except one: Alexei Sorokin, former executive manager of the Russian football federation, was quoted saying very clearly ‘Football is foreign policy!’, when presenting the five-year plan’ (!) that was established in 2008 with the aim of bringing Russian football to world elite level. In the meantime Russia has been awarded the 2018 World Cup and Sorokin has been appointed general director of the organising committee.

How unpolitical can huge state-controlled companies capable of blackmailing entire nation-states actually be? How unpolitical are payrolls on which you find the likes of Gerhard Schröder, who signed up as chairman of the board for a pipeline venture controlled by Gazprom, as soon as he had left office? How can spending an estimated minimum of 50 million Euros per annum in sponsoring a sports event be a simple marketing campaign? Especially for a company that, unlike Heineken, Ford, Master Card, UniCredit and Sony, UEFA’s five other official partners, does not even reach out to end consumers that actually have a choice?

In signing the agreement with UEFA, Gazprom expressed its certainty that ‘this cooperation will improve Gazprom’s reputation and advance our breand awareness to a fundamentally new level on the global scale’. In other words such investments do not aim at something as trivial as increasing sales, but are part of a soft power strategy. The attempts to build a strong brand recognition through links with other popular brands such as the Champions League are no doubt expected to position Gazprom as just another corporate entity and ecplise the incestuous links with the Russian government and its leader.

For Clemens Tönnies, successful entrepreneur in the German meat processing industry and president of the highly popular football club Schalke 04, the fact that his players promote Gazprom on their jerseys for 15 million Euros per year, is a ‘perfectly normal business relation’. Probably as normal as the social dumping in his Westphalian slaughterhouses without minimum wage that are reported to build their benefits on the exploitation of East European workers supplied by dubious employment agencies.

Football fans are reputed for not caring where the money comes from as long as it keeps ‘their’ club competitive. True: when Gazprom – now also ‘Global Energy Partner’ of Chelsea FC, whatever that means – signed its contract with Schalke in 2006 (less than a year after the Schröder deal), there were only some mild short-lived protests among some supporter groups. The Crimea crisis may be changing this: Clemens Tönnies’ personal ‘friendship’ with Vladimir Putin – which as the FAZ reports opened doors for him to build five meat processing plants in Russia – starts to be seen as a problem rather than an asset. Supporter groups such as the influential fanzine ‘Schalke Unser’ are openly opposing a planned courtesy visit of their team to Putin. Also on their list for the next general assembly: a change in the club’s statutes, integrating a clear statement against homophobia. Which in turn would enable them to ask why Schalke works with a sponsor that belongs to a state where homophobia has become legal.

The chances of these supporter groups to actually change something are low. There is little doubt that Schalke will continue to play with Gazprom on their jerseys for forthcoming years and that the fans themselves will continue to participate in the popular annual ‘Gazprom fan clubs’ tournament. But change starts with raising awareness. And it would be a first modest success to raise awareness about the fact that some deals are not really ‘business as usual’.

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March 20, 2014

A closed league, licencing and franchising in European football? The FA Women’s Super League experiment.

Doncaster Belles in action at the Keepmoat stadium

Will football ever see a European Super League for the top teams across the continent? If it were to become a reality, it would likely follow a closed system similar to American sports with no promotion or relegation. So in a sense, very ‘un-European’. Football remains a sport where the traditional pyramid system is fundamental, and so the proposal for a closed league for the elite few is widely rejected. That’s not how European football works.

However, look closely and you will see a closed football league in full flow within Europe, where the top teams in the country play with no fear of relegation. The Football Association Women’s Super League (FAWSL) was established in England in 2011. Yes, women’s football – but keep reading, as this closed league model, an experiment in European football, has had consequences that should be of interest (and concern) to any football fan.

Women’s football in England has always been overshadowed by its male counterpart – so much so, it’s hard to see at all sometimes. The FA launched the first semi-professional league for women in England in 2011, to increase the profile and standard of the game. But it came with a catch: clubs had to apply for one of the eight FAWSL places, and meet strict minimum requirements of business and financial management, infrastructure, and commercial sustainability and marketing.

The FA asserts that the WSL has increased competition, and fostered a growth in the profile of the game, media coverage and commercial investment. Live matches are shown on (subscription) television, and are played in the summer months when there is no competition with men’s football for pitches or fans. Fundamentally, this should all be of benefit to the game and the army of football-playing girls who need visible role models in a similar way as their brothers have.

But under the surface, tensions are bubbling.

Manchester City Women will join the FAWSL for 2014, with significant financial investment from the male club. They will take the place of Doncaster Belles, with their long history at the top of women’s football, whose licence renewal application was rejected one game into the 2013 season. After 22 years in the top flight of women’s football, they had to play out the season knowing that they would not be there next year, even if they finished as champions. Unsurprisingly, they finished bottom.

Franchising is another concern. The Lincoln Ladies management team put their FAWSL 2014 bid in under the name of Notts County, a professional club in Nottingham. This was to meet application requirements: Notts County (men) could offer more than Lincoln City (men). The Lincoln fan base have seen their local team moved 40 miles away and given a new name and colours – echoing the heavily criticised relocation of Wimbledon F.C to Milton Keynes. Worryingly for the football fan, the FAWSL proves that this was not a one-off. Although this being women’s football, the story passed almost unnoticed outside of Lincoln.

The impact of the club licencing system stretches worryingly beyond the FAWSL. With no hope of promotion, clubs outside the top tier know that they can only ever be ‘the best of the rest’. Players who want to fulfill their dream of elite women’s football will have to move elsewhere. The gap between the FAWSL and the rest may affect the quality of the lower leagues. And so on. Success in women’s football is now more about your off-field performance as your on-field.

Should football fans be concerned that this is a pilot run for a closed league that could be replicated elsewhere? Is women’s football a playground for the FA to trial new ideas? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, this is an experiment that could go very wrong.

Women’s football has never traditionally been dominated by money. There has never been enough floating around for it to be an issue. But in this closed league for the elite, money is becoming a major player. Liverpool’s 2013 FAWSL title win came after finishing bottom the previous two seasons and coincided with Liverpool F.C investing in their female side. The FA claims that the exciting finish to last season demonstrates “the unpredictable nature of the game we all know and love”. The counter argument may hold more weight, in demonstrating the most predictable aspect of modern football: success requires money. Few would disagree that the biggest concerns facing men’s professional football in England increased rapidly when money began to flow into the game at an alarming rate. Women’s football might still be far from this state, but the warning signs are there: money talks, and it rarely says the right things.

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March 10, 2014

Words of Wisdom

Sepp Herberger, the father of the famous ‘miracle of Bern‘, was not only known for his remarkable tactical cleverness, but also for his aphorisms. Used at the time mainly to shut up critical journalists, some of them have entered the German dictionary as legendary words of wisdom. When the intellectual weekly Die Zeit published a list of the most famous quotes of the 20th century, it included Herberger’s ‘The ball is round’, usually understood as something close to ‘anything can happen any time’, and often cited together with ‘The match lasts 90 minutes’, which pretty much fits all occasions. Two other wonderful stock quotes are ‘After the match is before the match’ and ‘The next opponent is always the most hardest’, perfectly applicable to professional life, or life in general for that matter.

My personal favourite, however, remains his answer to the ultimate question of what makes so many people watch so many football matches: ‘Because they don’t know the outcome’ (‘weil sie nicht wissen, wie’s ausgeht’). It is true that hardly any other sport matches the capacity of football to respond to the ‘quest for excitement’ identified by Norbert Elias. Statistical research has shown that no other team game tends to create and maintain as much ‘instability’ in the evolution of scores as football; a fact that was once attributed by Gérard Ernault to its inherent fluidity, ‘which equalises chances between players and teams more than static and more repetitive sports’.

‘Because they don’t know the outcome’ - well, come to think of it, nowadays they do, don’t they? This week’s Champions League round of 16 return leg should pit up the best teams of Europe, the ones that made it through long and tough qualification stages to the knock-out phase. A certain density of performance levels should normally be expected. In reality, however, I am not going to watch any of the return matches, simply for lack of ‘excitement’. Six of the eight outstanding matches are devoid of any suspense, and the two matches with a minimum of uncertainty are played by teams that one might suspect of not being able to go beyond the quarter-final stage anyway.

More than ever the Champions League seems to be controlled by literally one handful of clubs. No need really to stage a total of almost 30 evenings a year if the competition starts to be interesting only from the semi-finals onward. And given the distribution schemes of the revenues generated by the event, the same handful will be even richer next year, widening further the already frightening gap to the others. At the same time, in a large number of major European championships, the winner 2014 can be reasonably predicted as early as in March (the English Premier League being the only one to maintain a suspense configuration of four potential champions). And the winner will invariably come from the small pool of usual suspects.

I am certainly not the first to raise such concerns. For several years now, the tendency described above has been deplored by many observers. For the time being, the decrease of suspense has not yet been sanctioned by a significant decline of public interest. Perhaps because the marketing machines of the Champions League and the major national leagues is rather efficient. But it may well be that the spring of 2014 will be remembered as a tipping-point.

One way or another, allowing such a concentration of market power is risky business. Even liberal market capitalism, with all its laissez-faire principles, has introduced safeguards against monopoly building and abuse of dominant positions. Football, for which fair competition is essential, does not really seem to see the necessity. Both UEFA and national leagues would be well advised to reconsider solidarity principles when it comes to formulating financial redistribution or perequation schemes. They would to well to remember Herberger’s words of wisdom. Once people will realise that they actually do know the outcome, that the ball is no longer round, and that the match is over long before the ninety minutes have been played, the game will no longer be the same.

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February 25, 2014

Populist own goals

On 9 February, a small majority of Swiss voted in favour of taking measures to ‘curb mass immigration’. For a country whose economy and public services rely heavily on immigration, this was an astonishing sign of abandoning common sense and rational thinking to emotional fear-mongering by the leaders of the nationalist SVP. It’s what you can call an ‘own-goal’, if you like football metaphors.

'Stop mass immigration!' One of the SVP referendum posters.

The vote was largely commented upon all across Europe. Not only because it hinted at what might happen if similar referenda were held in other countries where populist or outright nationalist semantics have become mainstream over the last years. But also because the vote was in contradiction with the freedom of movement principle of the EU, which the Swiss, with regard to their bilateral agreements with the European Union, are in principle expected to respect.

Unfortunately, some of the outraged comments were, in their superficial simplification, as ‘populist’ as the vote they criticised. This was visible, for instance, in the attempts to use football in order to ridicule the Swiss ‘yes’ voters. Some media showed a picture of the Swiss national team on which the numerous players with migrant origins were erased, in order to highlight how apparently inconsistent the Swiss voters had been and what disastrous results their ‘xenophobic’ attitude was bound to produce.

Of course, the racist and islamophobic undertones of the last week of the SVP’s referendum campaign were nauseating. But the vote was mainly about introducing curbs or contingents for migrants from EU member states, whose free movement is ‘imposed’ by the EU. For third-country migrants – whether from South-Eastern Europe of other continents – Switzerland has always been in a position to define contingents or quotas, and it has been rather generous in doing so.

And the national football team precisely illustrates this fact: since 2012, the team has lined up no less than 18 players with migrant origin, but only a single one of them comes from an EU-27 member-state (Tranquillo Barnetta’s great-grandfather was an Italian immigrant…). In other words: rather than highlight the fallacy of the referendum vote, the current composition of the Swiss national football team gives evidence to two decades of perfectly appropriate migration provisions for refugees from the Yugoslavian civil war (10 of the 18 players have roots in former Yugoslavia).

What does this episode say about football in the context of migration debates? It provides three healthy reminders:

First of all, it recalls that football is a wonderful source of metaphors, but it has its limits and sometimes it’s better to think twice before drawing hasty and false comparisons.

Secondly, national football teams in countries like Switzerland, but also Germany, France or Belgium, may provide concrete and understandable illustrations of the co-existence of multiple identities and loyalties in societies marked by decades of migration. This is encouraging. They also serve as an example to other countries whose citizenship law has remained way behind the evolution of society. What they cannot do, however, is put an end to deep-rooted globalisation anxieties that remain exploitable by ruthless nationalists any time.

Finally, populists do not have the monopoly on populist shortcuts. Righteous indignation, especially when hastily expressed and unreflected, is just as prone to scoring own goals.

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January 29, 2014

Bad conscience

It’s increasingly difficult to read books about women’s football. Especially if you’re a white, bald male over 50. If you are, you won’t be able to put down Markwart Herzog’s excellent and very complete volume on Women’s Football in Germany without a tinge of bad conscience.

As a matter of fact, just like women’s football itself is victim to the eternal comparison with the same game played by men, male spectators of women’s football seem to be trapped in a discursive catch-22: whatever they say may be hold against them. They will inevitably be blamed for being unfair, or ignorant, or condescending, or outright sexist. Especially if they’re white, bald and over 50.

It must be acknowledged, though, that some of them are really stupid. The guys at FIFA that branded the 2011 World Cup in Germany as the ‘FIFA Women’s World Cup’ without even mentioning the term ‘football’ cannot be blamed enough for their incredibly inadequate (and very revealing) semantics. And the marketing guys paid on the same occasion by the DFB to invent slogans like ‘Fußball von seiner schönsten Seite’ and produce seemingly ‘ironic’ TV commercials with washing machines may think they are ‘postmodern advertisers’, but all they are is as has-been as ‘Manndeckung’ in the age of Spanish or Bavarian total football.

This being said, the average 50-year old bald male will still learn something from reading this book.

First of all, he will be impressed by the sheer variety of academic approaches to women’s football. The conference organised at the Schwabenakademie Irsee in 2011 and on which the volume is based probably attracted more researchers than an average game of the Frauen-Bundesliga. (Or was that yet another sexist comment that should be deleted by the mediator? I swear it was just intended to be a harmless joke!). There are theoretical reflexions based on gender study theory, followed by concrete, local historical case studies from Germany and Austria, spotlights on education in school and university, as well as analyses of women’s football in the media, in the arts and in museum exhibitions.

Secondly, he will get some food for thought. Not only about his own lack of sensitivity to the semantic pitfalls of his personal discourse on football, but also on the bigger issues that underpin these pitfalls and that make the discourse so immune to change and so difficult to emancipate from. In particular, the ten provocative ‘conclusions’ on the future of women’s football formulated by Matthias Marschik in his chapter are in fact challenging theses about the society we live in (or want to live in).

Finally, he will simply know much better what he’s talking about (if ever his haunting bad conscience does not prevent him to ever engage in a discussion on women’s football again). These are 360 pages of state-of-the-art research, well written in most cases, sometimes a little demanding, but in any case a reading experience that makes you feel you learnt something.

The narrative announced by the book’s wide-ranging subtitle ‘Beginnings – Prohibition – Resistance – Breakthrough’ is delivered, at least for the German-speaking world. And the implicit promise of the Schwabenakademie’s intelligent ‘dialogues’ book series – original interdisciplinary studies of complex sociocultural phenomena – is also kept. As usual.

Markwart Herzog (ed.). Frauenfußball in Deutschland. Anfänge – Verbote – Widerstände – Durchbruch. Irseer Dialoge. Band 18. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2013.

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January 12, 2014

Pantheons

I have always been struck by the neglect or even disdain shown by historians for the important part that popular culture plays in collective memory. A year ago, shortly before the FREE conference on football memory in Stuttgart, I even expressed my bewilderment in a post on this blog. There is a whole world out there of popular narratives about who we are, way beyond the ‘officially accredited collective memory’ of history textbooks framed by an elite. There is a living memory of icons, events and heroes that I have, over the years, often referred to as the ‘Parallel Pantheons’ of popular culture.

I was quite fond of this expression with its nice little alliteration, but from this week onward I will have to be more careful in using it. Reality has caught up. In a rare consensus, both social networks and parliamentarians of all parties in Portugal decided it was time a footballer was transferred to the ‘Panteão Nacional’ (located since 1916 in the former church of Santa Engrácia in Lisbon).

Eusébio's statue in Lisbon decorated by thousands of fans.

That the great Eusébio, who died last Sundat at age 71, had been a cherished national hero, had become very quickly obvious in the days following his death. Not only did tens of thousands of people give testimony to their unrestricted love and admiration for the former Benfica star and Ballon d’Or (1965) – the first black player to win the trophy – but the government also immediately declared three official days of mourning.

The decision to vote for Eusébio’s transfer to the National Pantheon is all the more remarkable as the Portuguese do not have the habit to bestow this honour in a casual manner. In its century of existence, the ‘Panteão Nacional’ has only welcomed 10 national heroes. But it has already  opened its doors to another representative of popular culture, the ‘Queen of Fado’ Amália Rodrigues (who died in 1999). How very fitting that Eusébio will be number 11 and thus complete the national team’s line-up!

What seems to be somewhat over-the-top at first sight, is actually not so surprising after all. Mass media and communication technology have eroded the traditional legitimacy of what used to be ‘the official transmitters of memory’. In the age of facebook ‘likes’, people increasingly decide for themselves what they consider worth remembering. As I wrote elsewhere, top-down official memory is now being complemented by a new bottom-up ‘wiki-memory’, whose archivists have the means to make their voice heard.

Santa Engrácia, the 'Panteão Nacional' in Lisbon.

The popular pressur in favour of recognition of the fact that Eusébio, whose performances have firmly anchored Lisbon and Portugal on the map of European football, has done more for his country than many political leaders is not without recalling the pressure exerted on the Vatican by the massive and repeated ‘santo subito!’ request concerning pope John Paul II.

The extent to which the memory of Eusébio was immediately celebrated across the continent also gave evidence to the remarkable interconnectedness of the European football community. Contrary to the 1950s and before, the 60s have left a lot more images, and Eusébio was visibly admired all across Europe. Maybe he was more of a European hero than other recently mourned icons like George Best? In any case, he will be very likely to increase the number of visitors to Santa Engrácia.

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December 2, 2013

No Frenchman at PSG !

Picture from http://atdigital.com.br/futebolinternacional/rai-fala-que-a-vida-tranquila-de-paris-ajudara-lucas-a-fazer-sucesso-na-franca/So, yesterday, Paris Saint-Germain started their game against Olympique Lyonnais without a single French player? And this attracted a great lot of attention. This is hardly surprising since the number of foreign players in club teams is a staple of the media. It is more surprising the topic is still attracting media & public attention, since this is hardly the first time. English club Chelsea first did it on Boxing Day 1999. In France, OM did it on 8 August 2003 & Arsenal played with an all-foreign squad (11 players who start the game plus all the potential substitutes) on Valentine Day 2005. It is also surprising, since after a few years of researching the issue for a PhD at the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall & Centre of International Studies), it appeared very clearly to me that the presence of foreign players in a team is actually a non-issue for the supporters of the club.

To sum up quickly the results presented in my book Foreign Supporters and Football Players: The Old Firm, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain (an abridged version of my PhD published upon joining ESSCA), supporters are on the whole very happy with foreign players because:

(a) The identity of club is rarely national : it is above all local – this may come as a shocking surprise to some but a player from Manchester is as ‘foreign’ to an Arsenal supporter as a player from France or Sénégal ; & in some case it is even worse to come from the territory of a team seen as an ‘enemy’ than from abroad. Ask a PSG supporter whether they’d rather have a Marseilles-through-and-through player or a player of equal sporting value from Germany? Of course, players which have similar roots as the supporters are on the whole more supported: this why Ashley Cole’s leaving for Chelsea was seen as a betrayal for a majority of Arsenal fans. For an Arsenal, he was ‘one of us who made it, who accomplished our dream’. For that reason, there is little doubt that Mamadou Sakho or Adrien Rabiot attract more support from PSG fans than some other players with no link with PSG, Paris or its suburbs. [Read more]

Post by Dàvid RANC in the category Governance, Identities, Memory, Public Sphere - 1 comment

November 24, 2013

France’s Got Talent!

France-Ukraine on Tuesday night was more than just a football game: it was also a singing contest. The star of the evening was the ‘Marseillaise’. The ‘official’ version before kick-off was followed by a minimum of six or seven spontaneous intonations during the match, and eventually topped well after the final whistle by Olivier Giroud, when he grasped the stadium speaker’s microphone and invited his teammates to howl yet another one.

The French national choir's stunning performance of the Marseillaise.

The unexpected Marseillaise performance was part of the reconciliation efforts by a team that had been so much criticised for not ‘loving the blue jersey’ and that was longing for redemption. Touching, really.

At the same time, there was something very desperate about this insistent invocation of the national symbol. As if the Marseillaise was the only common language between the players and the public. A function which is no doubt facilitated by the fact that its belligerent lyrics – about ‘impure blood watering the furrows of our soil’ – have become blatantly absurd and carry no concrete meaning any more.

How times have changed! Had Michel Platini’s wonderful team of the 1980s given the same kind of post-match choral performance, they would have ridiculed themselves. In the wake of May 1968, the national symbols cherished by Gaullism were considered old-fashioned by many; the anthem’s lyrics were widely criticised, and Serge Gainsbourg even released a Reggae version called ‘Aux armes et caetera’ – provoking (and probably taking delight in) a polemic with the far-right.

[Read more]

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November 9, 2013

Next stop: Jean Monnet

125 years ago, on 9 November 1888, Jean Monnet was born in Cognac. A good reason to post an exceptional ‘Throw-In’ that, for once, has nothing to do with ‘Football research’, but a lot with ‘an enlarged Europe’.

On 9 November 1988, the centenary of Jean Monnet’s birth was commemorated and honoured by the French Republic: in a grand ceremony that felt slightly out of sync with the modesty and lack of personal ambition that had characterised Jean Monnet’s life and work, his remains were transferred to the Pantheon. This was the time when François Mitterrand wanted to cultivate his (mostly usurpated) reputation as a ‘great European’, when the European Community was still (very conveniently) limited to the Western side of the Iron Curtain, when the completion of the Single Market scheduled for 1992 was full of promises. Had a referendum on a ‘European constitution’ taken place at this moment, there would have been no doubt about its enthusiasic outcome. [Read more]

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