Eric's shot on banks backfired -- with style
Not many were gullible enough to follow the latest rallying cry from this revolutionary 'king', writes Aoife Drew
Unlike Eric Cantona's infamous kung-fu kick, his attempt to bring down the global banking system last week was pretty far off the mark. In fact, it was a total flop, earning him the sarcastic nickname 'Che Cantona' in the French press.
You can't blame the ex-Manchester United star for being fed up with the banks. Most of us would love to hit them where it hurts.
But the idea was never really a goer, despite all the media attention it received. In a video entitled Kill The Banks, Cantona encouraged account-holders to stage a "peaceful revolution" by withdrawing all their cash on Tuesday December 7, Irish Budget day. The clip went viral on the internet, creating a huge buzz.
The former soccer great, who is engaged in the fight against poverty, theorised: "What is the point in demonstrating on the streets? You swindle yourself. . . The system revolves around the banks, so it must be destroyed, through the banks. If all demonstrators withdrew their cash, then there would be a true revolution. Trade unions. . . you know, sometimes we have to give them ideas." Indeed.
In France, home to regular and dramatic strikes, people are always on the look-out for new and better ways to protest. As Cantona said in a recent interview: "Being French, to me, is first and foremost being a revolutionary. I am from an immigrant family, of working-class Sardinians and Catalonians, and of political refugees. . . For me revolution still remains pertinent."
And the idea was appreciated by many fellow revolutionaries. Articles on the subject featured in the top 10 'most read' charts on the websites of French broadsheets Le Figaro and Le Monde and over 38,000 Facebook members joined his campaign 'Stop Banque'.
Not surprisingly, given the current economic context, the interest sparked in the 'Cantona revolution' breached French borders.
In Belgium, screenwriter Geraldine Feuillen joined in and created an internet site, bankrun2010.com, which was translated into six different languages. She claimed 15,000 of her compatriots would empty their accounts.
The Belgians got worried. And, despite trying to laugh off the fuss, the French government was a little scared, too.
Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, advised Cantona to "stop meddling in economics".
"He was an incredible footballer, but I think everyone should stick to doing what they do best," she said.
In the same spirit, on Tuesday morning, French Solidarity Minister Roselyne Bachelot tackled Cantona by reminding a national radio audience that the footballer has made good money in advertising for the very kind of capitalist companies he protests about.
Bachelot then put the boot in by pointing out that Cantona's wife -- actress Rachida Brakni -- has made TV ads for French bank LCL as recently as last year.
The end result of it all? Banks: 1, Cantona: Nil. There were no sweeping withdrawals in banks across France. One Parisian-based group, 'Save The Rich', dressed up as bank robbers, and its members withdrew their cash from the Societe Generale, but then deposited the money into a credit co-operative. Hardly the stuff of legend. Even Cantona didn't empty his account, making instead a "symbolic withdrawal" of €1,500.
French socialist leader Martine Aubry described the campaign as an "own goal" by Cantona. Quite.
Looks like it's time for Monsieur Cantona to hang up his boots when it comes to economic philosophy.