Earlier this week, France played Tunisia in an exhibition soccer match (a “friendly”) at Stade de France outside of Paris. The crowd, approximately 75,000 strong, consisted mostly of North African immigrants and persons of Tunisian descent. Not only did the crowd overwhelmingly support the Tunisian team, but the French anthem, the Marseillaise, was booed lustily before the match.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy was not amused. He summoned the head of the French Football Federation to his office and told him that matches should not be played if, pre-game, the anthem is booed.
Sarkozy’s admirable nationalism has gotten the better of him here. It would be absurd to stop a sporting event because people exercise their right to free expression. A junior minister had a better idea — France should exercise its right to stop playing former North African colonies at French venues.
And the French government should think seriously about the meaning and policy implications of the hostility expressed toward France by its citizens and residents at Stade de France.
UPDATE: Hostility towards the U.S. and its soccer team is common at many venues in this country. Some years ago, for example, Mexican fans at the Rose Bowl essentially drowned out our Anthem with boos and catcalls.
We don’t have the option of not hosting countries like Mexico and El Salvador; they are in our World Cup qualifying region. But we no longer stage matches against most of our regional opponents in cities like Washington, D.C. Cuba, which played here recently, is one of the few teams in the region against whom we can expect a genuine home field advantage in the nation’s capital.
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