This article from the Guardian highlights the extent to which the French football crisis is becoming one of international proportions, now being taken up at the highest levels of the French government.
At first glance, one might think: why should politicians have any role in talking to a football coach?
To begin with, the coach, in the end, amounts to a sort of indirect government appointee. France, like most nations, has a federation of sport that oversees association sports in general. In most cases, heads of football federations are appointed by the federations of sport, whose heads are in turn appointed by ruling political parties.
Perhaps even more importantly, the Domenech crisis is bringing to the forefront the role of football in creating a national image that has repercussions not just politically, but economically and socially. The French are now struggling to cope with a backlash stemming from this “tarnishing of the French image.”
One did not have to look far to see the impacts of the unprecedented discord and ultimate failure of the French team. From Facebook to the printed news to ESPN, the headlines orbited around the idea of the spoiled, whining French who put their egos before the team.
While Domenech may have been a horrifically bad manager (and he was), what got the attention of the world was the attitude of the players, performing (or not) on the biggest stage in the world. The extraoirdinary airing of the French dirty laundry will go a long way to create overwhelmingly negative images of France throughout the world. We don’t need to list all of the bad stereotypes that will be vastly reinforced by this whole incident, but one can imagine the repercussions, whether it be in marketing or even day-to-day identity creation.
In the end, however, Domenech will be only a scapegoat, held responsible for the actions of many, as well as his own. As Laurent Dubois shows in his book, ’98 was an opportunity in which a positive ideal of Frenchhood could be presented, despite its detractors. While it did not last forever, one would be hard-pressed to deny its impact on the national imagination and how it continues to endure. With this latest, disastrous chapter in French football history, one would hope that things are fixed as quickly as possible in order to restore the lustre on a global image that has been more than slightly tarnished.