Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Allez les bleus!


Late yesterday evening in the quiet, refined streets of Vincennes, between the Catholic cathedral and the Jewish synagogue; car horns, shouts of glee and whoops more reminiscent of wolves than humans filled the night air with a patriotic pride that has not been felt in more than 8 years of sport. France's team, les bleus, issued 3 stunning goals over the course of little more than 90 minutes, beating Spain to the quarter finals of the World Cup 2006. An onlooker could be forgiven for thinking that the joy in the air meant that France had won the cup already, as they did so convincingly in 1998. Zidane, Vieira and the spritely scarface Ribery brought the frogs their first win in a long time and the country is now buzzing with thoughts of victory over Brazil in the next round; ideas which until the start of the second half yesterday were considered pipe dreams.

As a rather girly girl having not more than a passing interest in football, I am surprised by the delight I have taken in this year's World Cup. I always like the Olympics and never miss at least a few minutes of the Paris Marathon, but club football has never caught my attention. This year I've found myself in front of Ukraine v Switzerland, Italy v Australia and other matches, with no patriotic interest at all, yet screaming at the tv with all my breath to encourage a goal by psychological power.

Maybe it's the fact that the French have been so pessimistic about their team of older players, the term une équipe de papi (grandad team) has been bandied about by the press. People at work today are replacing their 5-minute small talk at the coffee machine with 20 minutes of football talk. Middle-aged women are analysing the game with expert vocabulary, repeating what they've heard from husbands, boyfriends and other friends in the know. There is a lightness in the air and a fresh French pride which has been seriously lacking in the last few years.

Last night, despite the age of the équipe de papi, we were shown that experience can triumph over youth, and it's not all about being perky and energetic, but skills and brainpower have their rôle to play too.

With the scurrying approach of my 30th birthday that's all the good news I need to hear.

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