2013 November | FREE

Archive the month of November 2013

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.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Posts, Public Sphere - No comment

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.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : History, Posts - No comment

November 3, 2013

Taxes, polls and strikes – welcome to France!

These days, French football is not so much about goalscoring, match results and league tables. Much of the football talk is dominated by the exceptional tax of 75% on incomes above 1 million that the Hollande government is decided to impose on all companies operating in France over a period of two years.

The club presidents leave the Elysée like their players leave the pitch after a lost match.

Needless to say that the professional football clubs are all up in arms against the nex tax. And they react like each other French business interest representation would react: first, they take an appointment at the Elysée. Then they try to win over public opinion through a communication campaign mobilising opinion polls and publishing ‘open letters’ to the President in major newspapers. And if nothing else helps, they threaten to go on strike at the end of November.

There is something strangely ridiculous about some of the club presidents’ arguments. According to several simulations in different media, the tax (which is limited to 5% of a company’s total payroll) would actually concern only 13 top-tier clubs, for the salaries of 115 players and 8 coaches, and almost half of the total cost of 44 million Euros would be on the shoulders of the PSG. Surely this would not be ‘the end of French professional football’ as the Union of Professional Football Clubs (UCPF) wants us to believe. Like in all other big leagues, football clubs in France are notorious deficit-makers. Due to a unique, particularly favourable configuration in the private television market, they have benefitted for over a decade from a situation in which they received a disproportionately generous revenue from their broadcasting rights. And just like in all other big leagues, any benefit a football club may be lucky enough to generate, almost automatically disappears in inflated players’ salaries. And, again, like in all other big leagues, as soon as any external factor interferes with this eternal vicious circle, the clubs cry out for help in order to ‘save the competitiveness of our football in Europe’.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Governance, Posts - No comment