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Monday, 30 June 2014

A World Cup "dilemma" for François Hollande

All right, so "dilemma" might be a little bit of an exaggeration.

But hey. It's football (and politics). And hyperbole is pretty much par for the course in both domains.

All the same, how about "quandary"?

Yup, "François Hollande's World Cup quandary".

You see, the French president can't have helped but notice the  increasing popularity of Les Bleus during their first three games of the World Cup tournament in Brazil, especially after their convincing wins against Honduras and Switzerland (we'll forget that goalless draw with 10-man Ecuador).

The talk in the French media was about "team spirit" and "the players' pride in representing their country" with the folk back home tuning in by the millions to follow their exploits on telly.

Ah yes. Apparently the French had (and have) falllen in love with their football team once again: to such an extent that some people actually see them as being capable of winning the whole thing.

Meanwhile Hollande watches from the sidelines, or the Elysée palace - just as he did during a soirée he organised; the sumptuous setting and giant-sized screen more "gauche" than "bling bling" and rather spoilt by his constant (caught-on -camera) snacking throughout the game.

Still, "President Normal" and all that.

Anyway, that's all an aside (and a long-winded one at that).

The "quandary" for the French president is when and, indeed even, if he should make an appearance in Brazil, and how that might be interpreted.

Of course, Hollande doesn't have the same sort of PR savvy as the German chancellor Angela Merkel.

She's an "old hand", so to speak, at managing to show how "in touch" she is with what makes a footballing nation tick (during the World Cup) and could be seen in the stands during Germany's opening game, cheering on die Mannschaft as they made mincemeat of Portugal.

Angela Merkel at the World Cup (screenshot Newsloop video YouTube)

And to top it off, Merkel then had a photo op' in the dressing room with the players.

Smart lady - and smart move.

Hollande, in contrast, was last seen with the French squad in Clairefontaine as they prepared for their World Cup campaign.

There was plenty of humour, although it all looked a little awkward at times during the photoshoot with the players which left the president looking and "buffoonly".

But that's perhaps being unfair as there's nothing wrong with not being quite the right shape. After all, how many of us really are?

Since then, nothing much. Well just that ostentatious "soirée". And no real sign that Hollande is about to fly to Brazil to support Les Bleus.

Yes, he has a packed agenda - most political leaders do. But he could have followed Merkel's example and "played safe" by putting in an appearance during the group stage.

After all, the tournament and the group match schedules were published months ago.

Instead Hollande now faces the risk of turning up during the knock out stage when his presence at the country's defeat (should it happen) could well be interpreted as a "jink".

Yes it's (more than) a stretch of the imagination, and there's no way that Hollande's attendance would contribute to the outcome, but that wouldn't stop the more unkindly drawing a link between the two.

Apparently the French president has pencilled in a "surprise (you have to wonder how much of one it will be) visit" should Les Bleus make it through to the quarterfinals after their next match against Nigeria.

The only problem (oh, life can be so cruel sometimes) is that if all goes true to form and planning, France's opponents in the quarterfinal match would be...Germany.

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