Why I’m rooting for France in Euro 2012
A lot of people don’t like France. Or maybe it’s French folks they dislike. And I can understand that a little. They can be culturally snooty sometimes; though so can pretty much every other nationality on earth. And from a soccer standpoint I can understand why people wouldn’t like the French national team seeing as two of the most infamous meltdowns in World Cup history were perpetrated by les Bleus. There was Zinedine Zidane’s head butt of Italy’s Marco Materazzi that may have cost France the World Cup title in 2006. Then there was the undetected hand-ball by Thierry Henry that unfairly sent France instead of Ireland to World Cup 2010 in South Africa. The team imploded in South Africa, with coach Raymond Domenech kicking Nicolas Anelka off the team and the rest of the squad refusing to practice at one point in protest.
Particularly after the World Cup 2010 incident, the French team gained the reputation (whether accurate or not) as selfish mega-stars that cared more about themselves than representing their country honorably. Since then, the French Football Federation wisely dumped strange Coach Domenech and hired Laurent Blanc, an alum from the World Cup ’98 winning French side. Blanc has successfully overhauled the French squad, giving new youngsters a chance while reincorporating the megastars. France has plenty of megastars by the way, including Benzema, Ribery, Nasri, Malouda, and Ben Arfa.
So why in the world would I root for France in the Euros this summer? It’s a personal connection. I lived in France for nine months when I was eleven-years-old. Nine months can make a big impression at any age, but especially when you’re eleven. I really liked soccer before we moved to France, but I really loved soccer within a couple weeks of living in France. It was very contagious. I was playing pick-up games with neighborhood kids the first day I was there! Couldn’t understand a word they were saying at that point, but soccer bridged the gaps. And the soccer never relented the whole time I was there.
Since I attended a French public school in Tours, France, I was naturally influenced by their player and team preferences, which of course included the French national team. Euro ’88 was my first European Championship experience. I was hooked. I ended up cheering on Holland because I liked Ruud Gullit and because France hadn’t qualified. The French weren’t too happy about that, particularly since they’d won the title in 1984. I’ve rooted for France ever since my time living there, with a couple of exceptions – if they’re playing the U.S. obviously, and at the 2002 World Cup I cheered for Senegal over France because I also lived in Senegal for five years. But that’s another story.
When it comes to the Euros, I love watching the tournament, but the fun is enhanced when you have a team to cheer on. France has their issues, but I’m sticking with them. Not because of particular players, but because when I watch them, I remember the faces of all the French classmates I ran with at school and on the playground, whose exuberance for les Bleus and football itself had an effect on me that has never quite faded.
(France plays their opening game of Euro 2012 against England on Monday, June 11, at 11:00 AM (Central) on ESPN)
Who will you root for in Euro 2012?