PostsPrint This Post
October 31, 2012
I recently attended a conference organised by the Université du Maine in Le Mans : « Au Miroir du Sport – Spectacle sportif, médias et émotions collectives ». Interestingly, the conference departed slightly from the usual format of research conferences. Instead of being a mix & match of various papers loosely connected (or not) to a central theme, the organisers from (Philippe Tétart, Omar Zanna, Yvan Gastaut) decided to ask for contributions to a specific research project, which outline they had drawn together. As a result, the communications were much more focussed & all were relevant to other presenters.
I presented a paper drafted with Albrecht Sonntag on ‘Irony’: basically, it is essential to take into account that sports followers (in our case, the football audience) are able to reflect on the media presentation of the ‘sporting spectacle’. This distance with the reporting shows up in the irony used in their comments on games, TV reports & press articles.
Among all the very interesting other papers, one is very topical for the FREE blog. Yvan Gastaut recalled France’s victory in the World Cup 1998, & Philippe Tétart presented very stimulating insights on Zidane’s (in)famous headbutt during the 2006 World Cup final. More relevant to FREE was perhaps the reaction of the Belgian academics who had come to the conference: for them, all this debate on what Zidane’s head-butt meant, on whether it has diminished his aura, seemed slightly irrelevant. In a way, Zidane is often portrayed in the French media as the hero & saviour of La Castellane, Marseille, French Football, communities of Northern-African or, more widely, foreign descent & France as a whole. For foreigners, Zidane is, by definition, not a local, community or national hero. He is simply a football player &, arguably, one of the best of his era. It is very likely that for most foreigners, his head-butting Materazzi is seen as no more than just another incident in a career littered with red cards but saved by his incredible talent, technique & vision of the game. Interestingly, there is a page on Wikipedia for Zidane’s last ‘header’ in French but it has only been translated into Dutch & Japanese – not into any of the main languages usually associated with footballing nations: Portuguese, Italian, German, Spanish or English. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coup_de_t%C3%AAte_de_Zidane
This begs the question: is Zidane’s headbutt a ‘realm of memory’ outside of France? Is it one of these defining moments in the history of football which have created a ‘public space’ (even temporarily): a space where people all talk about the same thing? Hopefully, we shall get closer to an answer when the ‘return/away’ conference takes place in Nice & when the FREE project completes! For the moment, we can only make haphazard guesses…