Wednesday, June 23, 2010
As a youngster, I rooted for that team of one-name wonders -- Brazil. That is until the mid-90's when I shifted allegiances to France that had players like Youri Djorkaeff, Didier Deschamps, Laurent Blanc and the young turks of Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, and Zinedine Zidane.
If the Spaniards are lauded for their sterling and amazing midfield of Andres Iniesta, Francesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, and Sergio Busquets then the French had the same with Djorkaeff, Vieira, and Zidane. What magic was conjured from their play! It was a great time to be a fan. Because of Zizou, I rooted for Real Madrid too (now isn't that confusing since I like Barcelona). I purchased his Real Madrid #5 for almost $100 and that too remains a prized possession.
There aren't too many national sides of which I can tell you the entire roster with their football clubs and field positions and France is certainly one of them (the others are the US, England, Brazil, and Spain). During the singing of La Marseillaise, I can match all the names with the faces. I am a fan of French football and it is a goal of mine to have all the jerseys of every single French Ligue 1 club (I have a long ways to go). Is there a Frenchman inside of me struggling to get out? Hahaha. Not at all. But I loved Anatole as a kid and enjoy Ratatouille.
Good friend Chris Soler says I like players more than teams. In a way I do. Zizou and Djorkaeff had a lot to do with that. During Germany 2006, I finally snagged for myself jersey number 10. It was one of things I stuffed inside my backpack as the floodwaters of Ondoy engulfed my home. One of our househelpers damaged it while ironing it (yes, I know it should be) and I have been beside myself looking for a replacement. I see knockoffs and damned if I am going to wear one. So help!
But back to the football team. I recall coach Aime Jacquet also being pilloried in the French media as being clueless and not too bright (much the way Raymond Domenech is now being skewered). Les Bleus went on the win the World Cup in 1998 and Jacquet stepped down amid cries from the hypocritical media who now urged him to stay. The team was on a roll as they went on to win Euro 2000 with that was won when David Trezeguet scored the golden goal in extra time. A year later, still under a different coach, they also won the Confederations Cup 1-0 as they beat Japan. They would also win the tournament three years later.
Am not sure if any other country has done that -- win all three major football competitions in succession.
As the managerial position fell to Domenech, who saw his best years as a player with Lyon where he played in the back four. Sure there were protests again about his style of play that was cautious and slow. The return to active duty by France's "Golden Generation" for one last foray in 2006 in Germany was instrumental in getting them to the Finals. But the French were hardly world-beaters until Zizou discovered the fountain of youth as he inspired Les Bleus to that now infamous match against Italy.
It seems since that moment where Zizou knocked down Marco Materazzi with a headbutt, the French has always been on the wrong side of the news.
One can say that it's karma considering Thierry Henry's disgusting handball that allowed them to beat Ireland. That was certainly tough for me as Henry is one of several French footballers I admire. I have a few Les Bleus jerseys -- Zidane's 06 of course, Govou, and Henry. It has been hard rooting for the team. As I wrote earlier and prior to the tournament, the French are always a slow starting team. And as it was in '02, they were bounced from South Africa in the most embarrassing fashion with the team squabbling and rife with insubordination.
As I watched South Africa's Bongani Khumalo's goal beat Hugo Lloris and see Oscar Ruiz harshly send off Youann Gourcuff with a red card, I felt so sad. If I felt bad over Spain's loss to Switzerland or the US getting jobbed by a dumbass referee, this was worse. Earlier before the match, television cameras caught the embattled Domenech walking forlornly on the pitch by himself. I have never been a fan of his as coach but these are the things one doesn't wish on anyone.
Then they went down 2-0 and it could have been 3-0 but an offside was correctly called on Bafana Bafana. Florent Malouda pulled one back but it was all over for France.
Then there was that final misunderstanding with Carlos Parreira at the very end. I shook my head and went home. Except that I found a bench (in Eastwood) and sat down for a few minutes feeling bad for my fave football team. There was a light drizzle. Not that it bothers me.
Now that I think about it, it sort of reminded of Domenech alone on the pitch of Free State Stadium.