1. Location Location Location
Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder in someplace like Hull, watching your local team scraping for a nil-nil draw in the rain. Nothing tops that. Well, unless you’re in Monaco, with well-healed enthusiasts chanting, “Oui! Oui! Allez! Allez!” on a warm Mediterranean evening in September. They might not know the score, but they sure know their Chardonnay from their Sauvignon Blanc.
2. Singing for the win
When the pipe band starts to play, the teams stand to attention with passion flowing through their veins. A song rings out to unite a nation; unfortunately it’s the British anthem, “God Save the Queen.” Whoever wrote it clearly had not imagined it sung in a football stadium. Don’t get me wrong — the Queen should be saved, but she may need something a little more upbeat.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” praises violence and few people know its meaning, but the chorus sure is fun for fans to belt out!
3. Thirty years of hurt
So the song went in 1996. English fans still imagine that each World Cup is theirs to lose. They won it once in England in 1966 and most likely never will again. But still they dream every four years. It’s almost time to change the song to “Fifty Years of Hurt.”
France, on the other hand, never expects to win. They did, though, to the surprise of the fans in 1998. Now let’s see what happens this year!
4. A bridge too far
French fans are blessed with some of the world’s best players to cheer, many of whom are the sons of immigrants. These were people who dreamed of a better life for their children, and I guess they didn’t dream of England. Who can blame them!
5. Golden balls
Actor / designer / celebrity / underwear model and footballer David Beckham is adored by fans all over Europe, and not only in the fashion houses. The French don’t seem to have any “golden balls” (or balls of any kind, really) on their side of the Channel.
6. A tale of two cities
London and Paris are the two largest metropolitan areas in Europe. English fans can boast several top teams to follow in their fair city, and these teams are cheered with passion and pride. Paris has only one top team. Fans began to follow them with equal passion, especially after a Saudi billionaire bought the club and the world’s best players.
And 6 similarities
1. Sugar daddies
The top clubs in both England and France are all owned by Russian or Middle Eastern billionaires, and the fans are not complaining. This foreign investment has allowed clubs to buy the best players in the world and pay the highest salaries. This is great news for fans of certain clubs and not so great for others — the losers.
2. Eric Cantona, the rebel who would be king
Most English fans harbour a dislike for this French footballer. He made his name in England for his skill with the ball and for karate kicking a fan! French fans too resent Eric for admitting that he has supported England and not France since he retired…and to top it off, he’s from Marseille.
3. A song for all seasons
Both sets of fans love nothing more than chanting songs at football grounds. There are football songs for any outcome, triumph or despair. Most songs are passed down from generation to generation and have been sung for years. Sometimes French fans even translate famous English songs. They seem to be lacking imagination and creativity over there.
English fans are very afraid of the unknown foreign manager, and often turn to name calling. One manager is still called ‘the Professor’ because of his glasses (it doesn’t take much to be considered an intellectual in Albion). There are similar stories in France, where one national team coach became the “Star-Man.” He actually picked the team based on horoscopes. Horoscopes!
5. Hooligans and hoodlums
Both sets of fans enjoy a good old riot, though reputations suffered in the ’80s due to a number of tragic disasters. English fans prefer to keep it in and around the stadiums, while French fans set their cities on fire.
6. In the limelight
In the rest of the world, the private lives of the players are respected, but not so much in England or France. French football fans have their daily “serious” newspapers dedicated to football. One in particular was even the decider of the European Footballer of the Year (Ballon D’or).
English fans may not have the same level of prestige, but where else would you read about a footballer allegedly paying a porter at a hotel $330 to buy him cigarettes, or another attending the wrong club’s Christmas party? These are the topics of the day, people.