Just before the start of Euro 2012, I wrote about the at times tense relations between the French football team and the media that have been evident at recent major tournaments. The interactions between France’s star players and the media at Euro 2012 were in many ways similar to the team’s performance on the pitch in Ukraine; a catastrophe similar to what happened at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was avoided but certain players arguably did not do themselves justice.
There was a certain degree of symmetry to the way that France’s opening game of the tournament and their final match involved Samir Nasri making clear his dislike of certain journalists. When celebrating his goal against England, Nasri ran towards the side of the pitch whilst putting his finger to his lips in a gesture apparently directed at members of the press. It was reported that this gesture was accompanied by some choice words inviting journalists to keep their views to themselves.
After France’s defeat against Spain, Nasri became one of the star players post-match after directing a foul-mouthed torrent of insults at a journalist from AFP. In terms of the initial exchange, there seem to have been certain mitigating factors as Nasri’s outburst followed the journalist telling him to ‘get lost’ after he had not stopped to provide his opinion of the match. Nasri’s reply, however, contained exactly the same terms of abuse as Nicolas Anelka directed at Raymond Domenech during the 2010 World Cup and which ultimately led to his exclusion from the squad. Indeed, Nasri’s reaction to the journalist arguably involved a more sustained and abusive tirade of insults.
This time round, however, Nasri’s words did not make the front page of the following day’s L’Équipe in the way that had happened with those of Anelka two years previously. One may well wonder if L’Équipe were keen to avoid another high-profile clash with the national team. In addition, there are those who question whether it was necessary for them to have led with Anelka’s insults towards Domenech in 2010. Jérôme Latta, one of the founders of the satirical French football magazine Cahiers du football, put forward this view in a recent interview with the website of the current affairs weekly Rue89.
Although Nasri has so far largely been spared the treatment reserved for Anelka following his expulsion from the 2010 World Cup squad, it is worth remembering that one of L’Équipe’s lead stories in the build-up to the France v. Spain match was about the allegedly frank exchange of views that took place in the French dressing room following their defeat against Sweden. Their headline was Les Secrets d’un règlement de comptes (The Secrets of a settling of scores). On this occasion, the fact that the alleged bust-up occurred after France had nevertheless managed to qualify for the next round of a major tournament appears to have spared the squad from the widespread condemnation from politicians and intellectuals that happened in 2010.
Despite largely avoiding the disastrous events that took place on and off the pitch in South Africa, the post-match reactions to the defeats against Sweden and Spain provided reminders of what happened in Knysna. In his interview with Rue89, Jérôme Latta accused after-match discussion shows on Canal Plus of helping to create a culture of controversy that is furthered by the ‘somewhat vindictive’ approach of guests such as Jean-Michel Larqué and Christophe Dugarry. Given that Latta argues that BeIn Sport’s shows adopted a very different tone, it will be interesting to see what this new television station’s coverage of Ligue 1 will be like this season.
When ending his tirade directed at the AFP journalist after the match against Spain, Nasri stated ‘there, now you will be able to say that I was not brought up properly’. In the heat of his post-match frustration, the Manchester City consequently managed to demonstrate awareness of stereotypical negative media representations of his generation of players at the same time as doing little to challenge them. With Noël Le Graët, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), having already branded Nasri’s tirade after the Spain match as ‘intolerable’ and his reaction to scoring against England as ‘unfortunate’, there could well be much that remains to be written about this story in the weeks ahead. For the moment, FFF is planning to discuss the matter with both Nasri and the journalist who was involved.