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Football, a popular sport except for presidential candidates

Project for a dissident Super League from the Champions League, the vagaries of dependence on television rights, violence in stadiums… If football often makes the headlines in the media, and not only for its sporting aspect, it is absent from the presidential campaign.

Before presenting their programs for sport, Thursday March 17 at the Maison du sport français in Paris, none of the candidates for the Elysée Palace has yet spoken on the economic and societal issues related to the round ball, whether it is its professional-spectacular sport aspect or, even less, its popular sport side par excellence, practiced by two million licensees in France.

“We had the feeling, while investigating for our book, that it was imperative for many politicians to appear as having at least a vague knowledge of football. On the other hand, many have only a very distant view of football and its extra-sporting issues.explain Jean-Baptiste Guégan and Clément Pernia, authors of The Republic of Football(Amphora, 200 pages) which will appear on March 31.

This specialist in the geopolitics of sport and this journalist were interested in the candidates for the presidential election. “Many want to be people. However, not talking about the most popular sport at all is quite ambivalent. At the National Rally [RN] and to La France insoumise [LFI]it is other members of the party who push the candidates to broach the subject, such as Eric Coquerel with Jean-Luc Mélenchon”emphasizes Clément Pernia.

See the comparator: Compare the programs of the main candidates

“Using football for buzz”

The attention paid by politicians to football, when it exists, is often above all a strategy of display and potential image gain. A “recovery” that can be tricky. Jean-Luc Mélenchon had for example posed in 2018 at the Stade-Vélodrome by publishing a ” Go Om “ on Twitter, while he declared some time earlier at the microphone of the program “Quotidien” on TMC: “If there’s one guy in the whole country who doesn’t care about football, it’s me. »

The sanction in general does not delay: “Those who try to make political recovery are not forgiven by the supporters, who accuse them of instrumentalizing their club”, observe Jean-Baptiste Guégan and Clément Pernia.

The topicality of football in its dimension generating controversy is also an easy source of buzz for politicians. “Most often, French political representatives use football for buzz, without any real political vision behind it”comment the two authors of The Republic of Football.

They recall, for example, that Eric Zemmour had explained that the violence at the Charléty stadium between supporters of Paris FC and Olympique Lyonnais, on December 17, 2021 during a Coupe de France match, had been provoked by a company “excessively multicultural”.

Read also Incidents during Paris FC-Lyon: match lost for the two clubs, automatically eliminated from the Coupe de France

The far-right candidate like that of the Greens, Yannick Jadot, are among the rare contenders for the Elysée Palace who follow football news. Without making it a campaign argument. “Jadot likes football, but the Greens don’t talk about it because it doesn’t correspond to the vision they have of themselves or the vision they have of their electorate”, explain MM. Pernia and Guegan.

As for the leader of Reconquête!, he is, according to the two authors of the book, nostalgic for football from before: “He is someone who liked football, but today it does not interest him and it shows in his program. His vision of tomorrow’s football is the football of the past. »

“Speaking to a popular France”

Support for Olympique de Marseille from outgoing President Emmanuel Macron is no secret. A support that is as sincere as it is strategic, assures Jean-Baptiste Guégan: “OM is a good way for him to stand out from PSG and its image of ‘president of the rich’. He has a real love for this club but he also knows that it allows him to talk to another, more popular France. »

Understanding that he could draw political advantages from his passion, the host of the Elysée did not hesitate to put on his crampons, in October 2021, for a charity match with the Variétés Club de France, as a reminder of the game contested by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing at Chamalières (Puy-de-Dôme) in 1973.

However, football did not necessarily serve Emmanuel Macron during his tenure. The president benefited very little from the world title of the French team in 2018, quickly eclipsed by the Benalla affair and the movement of “yellow vests”. “I compared all the opinion polls in the six months following the coronations of the Blues and we observe that Chirac experienced an increase in favorable opinions for two months while Macron continued to decline”, analyzes Jean-Baptiste Guégan.

Read also World Cup: Emmanuel Macron misses his third half

Attentive to the polls like a scorer to his statistics, Emmanuel Macron and the presidential candidates now have three weeks to try to seduce the millions of football-loving voters.

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