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Football and intellectuals: we redo the match

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In France, the relationship of intellectuals to football has always been complicated. Well, not from the beginning: we remember that Albert Camus – who was a goalkeeper – gave him great moral virtues and that Nicolas de Staël painted him without scruple.

But something broke around May-68. Loving competition, praising this sport which was the vanguard of neoliberalism (players transformed into billboards, deregulation of transfers, etc.) did not go with the image that the intellectual had of himself in these time when being on the left was the secondary sexual character of any French thinker.

It must be said that certain events have fueled suspicion: when in 1978 the World Cup organized in Argentina threatened to be joyfully exploited by the dictatorial regime of General Videla, the players and the French authorities showed themselves to be little receptive to a call for boycott signed in particular by Sartre, Aragon, Barthes, Duras or Gisèle Halimi. It was always possible to love football, but discreetly: Dany Cohn-Bendit, who never denied his passion, played in Germany, and those who read “L’Equipe” did so at home.

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Then came 1998, which operated like a great reconciliation – popular jubilation, “black-white-beur France”, the creative genius of Zidane. Loving football, saying it, writing it became possible again. J

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