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01/06/2006

France's secret spherical weapon

France has all the credentials for a guaranteed World Cup victory, explains Herve Le Tellier matter-of-factly.

Overwhelmed by World Cup fever the Folio magazine of the Neue Zürchner Zeitung commissioned a whole string of authors to elucidate on their respective teams' chances of victory. Read Rodrigo Fresan on Argentina, Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro on Brazil, Andrew Anthony on England, Robert Gernhardt on Germany and Leon de Winter on the Netherlands. More to follow as the championship approaches...

France, world football champions? Anything else would surprise me very much. Because it's clear for all to see. After all, we're among the top favourites. Has there ever been a world champion that was not among the top favourites? No, never. But that's not all. Our team has an ideal number of players: eleven. That is nether too many, nor too few. Personally I'd have nothing against ten players more, but my eleven-year-old son – eleven, another wink of fate – explained to me that's not allowed. So be it, we'll win with eleven. Even if one of them is an old man called Zidane.

The ball used at this World Championships will be spherical in shape. That is a very decisive advantage for us, because we've secretly been training our players for months with just this kind of ball. Even our Zidane has got used to kicking it around, and he can do things with it that are going to amaze more than a few people.

A football pitch is comprised of a lawn. The French know this type of grass very well, because it grows abundantly in our latitude (plant in March then water regularly). They say even Zidane grows it in the gardens surrounding his manor.

On top of that, a game lasts 90 minutes. For a Frenchman that's nothing: we eat for two hours at breakfast, three in the evening and four at lunch. Zidane eats the whole time.

And finally, "football" is a typical French word deriving from the English "foot" and the English "ball". But "foot" is in fact much more French than English, because the French are the only people who call running "footing". And as for "ball", it comes from "balle" a word that's so French we used it to designate our once mighty "franc".

I'll admit, Zidane is not a real French word, but it's diminutive, Zizou, is all the more so. Really, I pity everyone else. In 1998 we were the world champions because Zidane was on our team. In 2006 we'll be the world champions although Zidane is on our team.

*

This article forms part of compilation of writings originally published in the Neue Zürchner Zeitung magazine Folio on May 2, 2006.

Herve Le Tellier is a journalist and writer, and lives in Paris. His most recent publication is the prose work "Cites de memoire" (Berg International 2003).

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