[FOUNTAIN]Punishing France and Le Pen

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[FOUNTAIN]Punishing France and Le Pen

In 1966, during the World Cup championship match at Wembley Stadium in Great Britain, West Germany and England played to a 2-2 tie in regular time. At the 11-minute mark of overtime, a shot by English striker Jeff Hurst hit the bottom of the crossbar, dropped to the ground and bounced out of the goal. But did it land inside the goal or outside? The referee was not sure; the linesman was, and Mr. Hurst was credited with a goal. The English beat West Germany 4-2, and Mr. Hurst had a hat trick.

This incident led to a new term: "Wembley Goal." Although the English don't use it often, the Germans, who never accepted their defeat, still do. In German, they say "Wembley Tor," and the meaning has been changed slightly but significantly to that of a ball that bounces off a goalpost.

The World Cup champion French scored no goals at all in the round-robin competition at the Korea-Japan World Cup games and have already gone home. Whether it was a jinx or the absence of Zinedine Zidane is being hotly debated by French fans, but when the French lost to Denmark 2-0 with Zidane playing, they lamented, "God abandoned France." Perhaps so. The goddess of victory seems to have turned her back on the French: they "scored" five Wembley goals in their three matches in Korea.

The demise of the French was because of their incompetence, not a jinx or bad luck. The French team has aged, there was no fresh blood, and their stars acted like prima donnas.

Soccer is just a sport, and has no intrinsic political meaning, but I could not help being reminded of Jean Marie Le Pen, the right-wing French politician. The past dominance of the French and their so-called artistic soccer, was attributed to players of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including players from the Middle East and Africa. The French's distinctive tolerance of accepting whoever has ability made them the most powerful soccer team in the world.

This was a cause of discontent for the right-wing, racist Mr. Le Pen. "It is unreasonable to call a group of foreign players a French team," Mr. Le Pen once said. He also carped that immigrant athletes could not sing France's national anthem. Mr. Le Pen drew 18 percent of the votes in the recent presidential election in France.

Of course it would be far-fetched to interpret the French soccer team's defeat as a result of French society leaning to the right, but I feel tempted to see it that way in a corner of my mind. After all, how would Mr. Le Pen and his supporters feel about the French defeat?

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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