“Mon Dieu!” (And other, less appropriate exclamations from the World Cup)
So a couple days ago I wrote a post titled "Dear Keepers, We Need to Talk." Well, I'm amending that title today: "Dear France, We Need to Talk"--think of this as my official France post. The embarrassing, disgusting (and honestly, pretty funny) situation rocking the French Football Federation has come to a head in recent days: from the beginning of the summer when Raymond Domenech (one of the most hated people in France, I imagine) decided not to call up Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema (two of my favorite young players in the world--not just in France), to the absurd underage prostitution scandal, to the most recent dismissal of Nicolas Anelka, the French side has been rocked with scandal throughout the World Cup.
And who's fault is all of this? Well, not Zinedine Zidane, that's for damn sure--and don't think this is my Real Madrid bias coming in (he was is my favorite player). But he had nothing to do with it, other than stoking the flames a little by criticizing Domenech. But it's also not entirely Domenech's fault: sure, he has been a mediocre (at best) coach, an egoistical, sometimes idiotic douchebag, but that doesn't mean that this whole problem goes back to him. It also isn't Nicolas Anelka's fault: he didn't leak the quote to the press--the "traitor," whoever that is, is at fault there--though he should have apologized.
The problem here is that everyone is at fault. The federation is certainly at fault for sending Anelka home based on some quotes that appeared in the French press--Anelka reportedly told Domenech "Va te faire enculer, sale fils de pute," or, essentially, "Go take it up the ass, you dirty son of a bitch." Sure that kind of thing is totally out of line, but it was said in the heat of the moment, in the confines of the locker room, a place that must be private for the team's own protection. Anelka is at fault for not apologizing--even though the players were "already on strike" before the incident (according to The Guardian)--and everyone else in the locker room was at fault for not making him apologize.
See, this is where a leader like Zidane comes in handy: he would've taken Anelka to the side, calmed him down, and despite his own feelings for Domenech, convinced Anelka to apologize. And that's what the French are lacking--despite having a relatively old squad, they're really just lacking leadership, experience.
And because of this lack of experience, the French World Cup team has already deeply embarrassed a proud nation; and when the French inevitably crash out of this tournament (the Vegas odds-makers say they're more than a 9-1 shot to make the round of 16), they will go home to a country that has already forgotten (intentionally) about them. Ribery was right--the whole world is laughing at them: and that's something the French can't abide. The French newspapers and sports media is so embarrassed that they have published editorials that say things like "when these players come back to feel angry or sad, because that would be giving too much effort to a team that won't give any for you."
They can't even restrain themselves in front of the media: Lizarazu, the long-time French defender was quoted as saying, about Anelka, "What bothers me is Nicolas Anelka's performance in the first half. I saw a player strolling ... strolling in the World Cup! He wasn't aggressive, wasn't interested in the game. Domenech took him off at the break, but should have done so before. You shouldn't play in a selfish manner, you have to show you're up for it." Incredible!
This French team has been a disaster since Day 1, and inside of this disaster the French will have to change the narrative from questions like "Who's your favorite player?" or "How far do you think we'll get this World Cup?" to questions like "Which player or person do you hate the most?" and "Do you want our team to make it out of the first round?" (to which 75% say "NO!").
So, dear France, we need to talk; but before that happens, you need to talk amongst yourselves, so you don't embarrass yourselves again. And when you go home in the next few days, don't forget that you--from Domenech and the FFF, to Anelka and the players--have let down your entire country, and embarrassed your countrymen in front of a billion people. You've embarrassed them so much that most of them WANT YOU TO LOSE. And when you screw over the few of them that still want you to win, the real fans who go to your practices, by snobbishly refusing to practice or play--well, we all lose.