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March 30, 2013

Pots and pans

Bernard Lacombe was a quick striker. In 1978 it took him only 38 seconds to score against Italy in the Argentinian World Cup – still the fastest goal in World Cup history!

But this week he was too quick.

Bernard Lacombe at the 1978 World Cup

As guest on a talk show on Radio Monte Carlo he was confronted with a caller named Sonia who somewhat agressively insisted on Karim Benzema’s apparent incompetence. When Lacombe understood that he would not be able to convince the lady of the opposite, he got rid of her saying

I don’t talk about football with women, that’s how I see things.
They should return to their pots and pans, and things would be better.

When he earned some embarrassed laughter from the all male talk show hosts, he probably thought that the story was over.

He was wrong. His quote made the buzz of the week, eclipsing the match against Spain that had been the topic of the talk show in the first place. There were thousands of comments on all sports web pages of the country (and beyond), overwhelmingly showing indignation at Lacombe’s sexist remark. Some very rare commentators who tried to defend him with a vain attempt at traditional male ‘tongue-in-cheek’ complicity were silenced in no time.

Lacombe, who, in a nice ironic twist, works for Olympique Lyon, the club who just won twice the Women’s Champions League, was quickly forced to publicly apologise, regretting his jibe and pretending he had only looked for a way to put an end to this unpleasant phone conversation on the radio show.

There are some good lessons to learn from this episode:

1. The presumingly ‘macho’ football community in France and elsewhere is no longer willing to let men get away with sexist remarks (even if they are well-respected former players).

2. Sensitivity to sexism in all areas of society has grown, even in countries of ‘Latin’ cultural heritage, and even among football fans.

3. Women’s football seems to be taken very seriously by thousands of contributors in football online communities, who as we know are still overwhelmingly male.

4. And, of course, female football fans are perfectly capable to voice the same stupidities in radio talkshows than their male counterparts.

Poor Bernard Lacombe. Already in 1978 his goal was worthless. Italy finally won 2-1 and France was eliminated after the first round.

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