Monday 11 December 2017

Kevin Myers: France's World Cup mutiny echoes surrender to Nazis

Kevin Myers

You think that the subconscious does not influence our actions? You think we are immune to the strange rhythms of myth and memory?

On June 17, 1940, faced with a mutiny in his cabinet, and with his mistress, Helen de Portes, backing the mutineers, the French prime minister Paul Reynaud resigned. Power passed to the decrepit old general, Henri Philippe Petain. On June 20, Petain accepted the irreversible logic of the mutiny and of German military victories, and the next day France surrendered to the Third Reich.

Seventy years later, to the very day after the pro-Petainist mutiny in the French government, a mutiny in the French soccer squad in South Africa spelled the end of the country's hopes in the World Cup. France surrendered as abjectly this month as it did precisely 70 years ago. Recrimination, bitterness and division became the defining emotions of the departing French footballers -- as they were of the French who conceded defeat in 1940.

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