French Language Blog

The (Broken) American Dream of a French Football Team Posted by on Apr 17, 2010 in Culture

Today is vendredi. A long week has mercifully come to an end, Dieu merci (Thank God.)
What do you les gars (guys) like to do in your fin de semaine (on the weekend) ?

Personnellement (personally), one of my favorite passe-temps (hobbies) when I have du temps libre (free time) is to play le football.
Let us then… “tackle” a bit the topic of le foot, and a particular souvenir (a memory) of mine that involves France, the US, and soccer.”

When French people start talking, passionately of course, about the subject, they say: “Place au foot !(Something like “it’s soccer time!”)

Lots of my American friends often get confused when they hear that I am about to go to play “football.” That’s why I always rush to clarify that we’re in fact going to play “S-O-C-C-E-R“…

Virtually all sports observers agree that “soccer” has in many different ways achieved a remarkable status progress in the US, thoroughly inimaginable (unimaginable) only two decades ago.

It has maybe all started in that fateful year of 1994, when la Coupe du Monde (the World Cup) was hosted, pour la première fois dans son histoire (for the first time in its history) by the United States.

That no doubt ushered a new era: The Summer of ’94 was a historical moment savored by all American supporteurs (fans), who were eager to see le balon rond” competition come invade their once quasi-empty stadiums (le balon rond means “the round ball”, maybe as opposed to other shapes, like the ball played in the so-called “football américain.”)

For les supporteurs français, however, it was au contraire (to the contrary) a very time.

The French team, known as “les Bleus (eponsymously named so after the color blue, even though the players could choose as well to wear other colors, especially white), failed to advance through les matchs de qualification (the qualifier games.) At the very last minute of the epic face-à-face opposing les Bleus to la Bulgarie, just when the French players were ready to enter les arrêts de jeu (extra time), the Bulgarian player Kostadinov unleashed un boulet de canon (a cannon ball) that went straight into the goal… Only ten seconds before le sifflet final (the final whistle.)

The French gardien de but (goalkeeper), Bernard Lama, could absolutely not do anything. Kostadinov had indeed delivered the cruel coup de grâce (fatal shot)The teammates of the French star Jean-Pierre Papin, nicknamed “JPP” by the fans, were prevented from fulfilling their rêve américain (American Dream) chez l’Oncle Sam (at Uncle Sam’s.)

Some have argued that the arbitre (the referee) should have whistled une main (a handball) commited by Kostadinov, right when he intercepted the ball.

À vous de juger (you be the judge) on this video:

Notice the French commentator, Thierry Roland, yelling: “Quelle catastrophe !“, “À dix secondes de la fin ! (Ten seconds before the end of the game!)

In any case, I am sure that Irish fans will matter-of-factly point out here that even if there were indeed a hand, it wouldn’t be as flagrante (blatant) as what some have dubbed la main de la honteby the otherwise talented Thierry “Titi” Henry, thanks to which les Bleus ensured their qualification to la Coupe du Monde 2010, this time organized not by Uncle Sam but by Uncle Mandela, in l’Afrique du Sud! (South Africa.)

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  1. Alex:

    From the Bulgarian perspective, a small country of 8 million people, this is one of the most celebrated goals in the country’s soccer history. It propelled the team to the semifinals of the World Cup ’94 in USA. A lot of rakia was consumed that night in Sofia.


    PS. Kostadinov’s hand never makes direct contact with the ball, this is clear from this and other TV angles + interviews with him thereafter. Although it is astounding how a ball passed from 40 meters away just sticks to his thigh…the heavy backspin on the pass was key.