Of course, the animosity has spilled outside of the playing field. The latest attack came from Rama Yade, secretary of state for sports and one of the most popular political figures in France. A couple of weeks ago, she criticized Les Bleus, as the team is known, for staying in the most expensive hotel available to World Cup participants, the Pezula. She pointed out that in a time of recession, it didn't look good for those guys to stay in such an exclusive resort. (Many teams from developed countries chose more modest accommodations.)
To make amends, sort of, Les Bleus said they would visit a township. All right! The visit took place a couple of days ago, in Knysna, but even then, they refused to go with Yade (the Danes did a similar tour with their minister). And they stayed for a total of 29 minutes, according to a report in the French press.
My favorite take on the World Cup so far has been from Stéphane Guillon, who does daily editorials on public radio station France Inter. Below is an edited translation of this morning's intervention, which was read out in a voice dripping with sarcasm. (You can watch him here.)
Did you see the footage of our team's visit to the township of Dam Se Bos? It was moving to see all these children, barefoot in the rain, held behind security tape with their parents. (...) When the players' bus appeared, a great cheer erupted, accompanied by those vuvuzelas that are spoiling the World Cup for us. As soon as you turn on the TV, you feel as if there's a swarm of bees in the room. Apparently the players can't even hear their coach on the field. If our players don't hear Domenech, that's a good thing, maybe we'll win.
When the Bleus' bus stopped, the kids got even more excited. And then you had to wave a bit, turn off your iPod, get out in the rain during siesta time, when you could have been relaxing at the Pezula palace. 'Let's go guys, we'll stay 20 minutes, tops, you all smile for the cameras! Leave your iPhones on the seats, nothing of value outside, there have been thefts in the area -- and here we go!' The French staff gave umbrellas to the players -- no way should they get a cold before their next loss. (...)
Earlier, the players had decided to move their visit ahead so they wouldn't run into Rama Yade, who dared to criticize their hotel's splashy luxury, which stands in sharp contrast to the recession and their sorry performances on the field. The French football federation donated 100,000 euros to fix up the local stadium -- a drop in the water compared to the 240,000 euros it had paid a few days earlier to fly in the players' wives for a weekend. Just think: If the players had chosen not to get laid, we could have built a second stadium, with locker rooms, showers and maybe even cleats for each kid.