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May 9, 2012
Has the newly elected French president read Özgehan Senyuva’s blog post on how football memories build links across generations within a family? At least this is what two very interesting interviews from the last two weeks of the election campaign suggest. In both of them François Hollande not only gave insight into his sport policy programme but also into his own personal sporting experiences and memories.
The first one, on Radio France, is an almost ‚classical‘ account of football socialisation within a family. Speaking about his childhood in Rouen, Hollande describes how he was taken to the local ground of FC Rouen – a one-time French champion in 1945 that played in the first division all through the sixties but has now been shuttling between third and fourth division for the last decade – first by his grandfather, before becoming a regular supporter with his father. His dream, he says, when playing for the junior teams was to become the first team’s centre forward one day. Needless to say that this ambition was not compatible with higher education at HEC, Sciences Po and ENA. Well, he’s a different kind of centre forward now, facing staunch defenders of a different kind and flagging the red colour of FC Rouen’s jersey for a another type of team…
The second of the two big interviews was held at L’Equipe’s headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt and published on 27 April. Hollande was asked to choose seven great moments of sport history and explain why they had a special place in his personal memory. Three of the four were directly linked to the French national football team. Unsurprisingly, the 1998 World Cup Win and Platini’s triumph at the 1984 European Championship – France’s first major international title – figure among them. But also the tragic semi-final defeat of the Spanish 1982 World Cup against Germany, a match that is very literally ‘memorable‘ and that a large number of French citizens above 40, to whom the mere reference to ‘Séville’ brings up painful memories, would not doubt also have chosen. ‘There are defeats which are more beautiful than certain victories’, commented Hollande. As Michel Platini, one of the heroes of this match in July 1982 repeatedly said, ‘no movie, no drama could ever transmit as many contradictory emotions as the lost semi-final in Sevilla’. It seems the new French president shares at least one perception of football with his counterpart at UEFA.