Monday, June 21, 2010

It's all going down the drain...

OK, just to set the scene. I grew up in a football (soccer if anybody reads from outside Europe, you never know!) family. Not just the 'watch it on TV' football family, the 'out there on the pitch' one. My dad used to play at a fairly honourable level when I was born and, by the age of 2 months, I was out by the side of the pitch every Sunday, whatever the weather.

He then set up a ladies team, which included my mum, and 4 of my 5 aunts at the time (and other girls too of course). He eventually ended up coaching the main men's team of our local club, then moved to another club and was in charge of the kids team my brother played in for a good 15 years. 5 out 6 of my uncles play(ed) football. My grand father was a referee, my grand mother was secretary of the football club. When he wasn't coaching or playing, there was always a game to watch on TV or a meeting to go to.

I grew up on the side of a football pitch, played football myself until I wasn't allowed to play with boys anymore. There also were the tournaments in the summer, which I used to love going to, as most of my friends were playing (I always got on better with guys than I did girls), not to mention other fit footballers from other towns and countries too. Later on, my friends and I used to help with the local tournament, serving at the drinks stand, decorating the hall etc. I used to be called upon to translate for the foreign teams, in broken English or Spanish. In France, a lot of girls started liking football after the 1998 World Cup, because we won it, because the players are nice to look at, because boys would pay more attention to you if you said that you liked football. I wasn't one of them, I was really interested in football, I could (and still can) explain the offside rule, I can tell if that was a yellow or a red, a corner or a goal kick.

I might not follow football as much as I used to but I still watch it sometimes, especially if France or Ireland are playing. Mr Foodie is more of a rugby person and I find myself starting to enjoy rugby a lot more too.

So, of course, the World Cup is on. I had decided not to post on it, because of the shameful way we got to qualify against Ireland. I still supported France of course and hoped that they would win. But something happened last week that made me change my mind. One of the players was sent home on Friday for insulting the manager at half time of the game against Mexico. He told him to 'F*** Off, you son of a b****'. And it made it onto the front page of the national sports newspaper. Not just the fact that he insulted him, the actual words (and not bleeped as I did here) were printed on the front page. And that's just wrong on so many levels.

First off, the newspaper should have had more sense than to print the actual words on the front page. They should have had more respect for their readers and their families. Young kids walking into the newsagents that day got to see those words in bold letters on the front page. I know that particular newspaper likes controversial headlines but this one is just plain disrespect for their readers.

Second of all, don't get me wrong, I know what happens in dressing rooms. From both sides. I know what it's like from the manager's side, I know what it's like from the player's side. I have seen and heard what has been said to my dad as a manager, and I have seen and heard my friends complaining and cursing at their manager even at the lowest of playing levels. So I have no illusions, I know it happens at all levels. What I can't accept is the lack of professionalism. These players are role models for young kids who look up to them, who dream of, maybe, one day, being like them. My dad and my brother, both, manage young players. They do their best to instill a love of the game, respect for all people involved, fair play and fairness. And I feel like all their hard work as educators has been completely and utterly obliterated by the fact that such a high profile player has now made it acceptable to talk to their manager that way. Especially, since he refuses to apologise.

Thirdly, the whole French team refused to train yesterday in support of him, in protest against the decision to send him home. A so called solidarity that they don't have and never had either on or off the pitch. There have been talks of players ostracizing other players because they don't have the same background, they're not 'ghetto' enough, they don't talk the same way, don't listen to the same music. A fist fight nearly broke out between a player and one of the technical managers, in front of cameras. They're looking for the 'mole' who leaked the story to the press. They're calling for that person to be sacked. What kind of message does that send to young players?

So, mes chers Bleus, I am just completely disgusted at all of you, players, technicians, managers and federation. I have a feeling that you do not want to be at the World Cup. Well, in that case, you should have let a team that really wanted to go be there instead of making it in such a controversial, un-fairplay, shameful manner. I'm sure Ireland would have enjoyed it a lot more than you and we did. And they would have made people here dream a lot more than you did (and god knows, we need to dream here in Ireland).

You are sending the completely wrong message to young kids. Your heart was never in that tournament. The size of your ridiculous wages can only be topped by the size of your equally ridiculous egos. You have slashed a lot of people's dreams and hopes and are laughing at everybody who might have been supporting you. You act like little scumbags (excuse my french but I am just so so so very annoyed). And you succeeded in achieving more damage to your sport than anybody else before, undermining a lot of the hard work done by honest, passionate educators who do so in their spare time and for no money whatsoever, just for their love of the game. The same people that helped you to get where you are now, who nurtured your talent and helped you to grow. And that, you see, mes chers Bleus, that's not Football.
So thank you for having achieved, with brio might I add, the opposite to what a national team should do. Thank you for having stained forever the national team. Les Bleus made us dream, they made us cry with joy, they united the nation back in 1998. You have just managed to ridicule that same nation all because of your attitude off the pitch. Thank you for having completely ignored the basic values of football, those of respect, equality, fairplay and fairness. The same values that educators, in all types of conditions and environments try and instill in young players.
You do not deserve to be called les Bleus.
Definitely not yours anymore,
Foodie Mummy.

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