The World Cup is heating up and boy, is it ever entertaining. There’s fights! There’s temper tantrums! There’s cursing in several languages! And as if that were not enough, there’s even some soccer being played.
The biggest news for lots of Americans was the US side being sent home Saturday by the Ghana team that did the same thing to them in 2006. Note to US team: aid to developing African nations does not mean giving a soccer ball to everyone you see wearing a red jersey.
But next to the hair pulling over the ubiquitous vuvuzela, perhaps nothing has provided more entertainment than watching the French team self-destruct. To paraphrase Voltaire, if they did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them (which is sort of an existential conundrum, since Voltaire himself was a frog).
The French disconnection started at halftime during their 2-0 loss to Mexico. Mon dieu – France, losing to Mexico? It was like Cinco de Mayo all over again, only without the beer commercials.
French striker Nicolas Anelka, apparently unhappy with coach Raymond Domenech, suggested to him, “Go fuck yourself, you dirty son of a whore.” While this probably sounded pretty awesome in French, it was enough to get Anelka sent home.
A few days later, the petulant French team refused to practice, and instead spent the day in their room, playing Edith Piaf records and pouting. That would seem to be drama enough for anyone – anyone but the French, perhaps. Senior French Football Federation official Jean-Louis Valentin was so pissed he tore off his beret, threw his Gauloises to the ground and declared he was returning to Paree.
Even a pep talk from Domenech had no effect. “I tried to convince them that what they were doing was an aberration, an imbecility, a stupidity without name,” he said later. Here’s a tip for Domenech: work on the pep talks, Ray. While “a stupidity without name” probably sounded great in French, it’s not likely to motivate your players to win games – it’s more likely to motivate them to put Icy Hot in your jock strap.
The French lost their next match to an underwhelming South African side, and went home in disgrace. Domenech reacted by refusing to shake the hand of his African counterpart. Way to keep it classy, dude.
The French humiliation not only caused a national uproar, it also cost the team some serious advertising francs. Credit Agricole SA and hamburger chain Quick ended advertising campaigns featuring team members. But if Midol were looking for spokesmen, the French would be an obvious choice.