Even at the “end of the Earth”, or at least a most far-away point from France, they stayed up all night to revel in the country’s great victory. Media editor Dr Lee Duffield reports from New Caledonia.
THE SCENE was a crowded sports bar in Noumea, New Caledonia, out in the mid-Pacific, towards 4am local time and 500 spectators dared to believe it was about to happen.
DAY OF GLORY
The territory is French – although set to vote in November on independence – but, for the night, any and all divisions were being put aside.
The moment of victory was received with the traditional outburst of bellowing and tears.
As it says in the song they kept singing, 'La Marseillaise', “le jour de gloire est arrive”, the glorious day had come; the second time for France — they also won in 1998 when the tournament was on home turf.
Whatever compelling power this World Cup Football holds, the crowds are fiercely committed and 211 countries this time put up teams, 32 surviving qualifying rounds to take part.
At World Cup time, everybody becomes an expert; football tragics, regulars and true believers more or less go nuts.
One insightful summary of the Final, played in Moscow, was provided by the New York Times, not generally supposed to be the home of that particular sport.
Appraising the game, in which Croatia played hard and maintained pressure until the last, it had a simple verdict, France was the recognised “best team” this time around:
France’s first goal arrived off a Croatian’s head, and its second only after the intervention of the Argentinian referee. But it was the next two goals, the low, hard shots that crowned its latest generation of stars, that confirmed what everyone knew even before its 4-2 victory over Croatia was completed. France was the best team in the field this Summer in Russia, a potent mix of greatness, grit and good fortune …
The favourite man was, again, the 19-year-old French forward Kylian Mbappe, declared the young player of the tournament, who marked his night by scoring a goal and high-fiving a protestor who got onto the field.
PUSSY RIOT’S PROTEST
The protest in question, by four women who ran-on costumed as police, was by Pussy Riot, the feminist campaign group that regularly takes on the ex-KGB strongman, President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian President was able to see the on-field proceedings from his prime vantage-point in the stands — millions of television viewers got a quick-cutaway glimpse.
Based around the punk group Pussy Riot, the movement has distinguished itself with shock tactics like public sex or protests in church.
The members have received international support in defence of the members’ human rights and are often enough affronted by angry members of the Russian public who don’t like what they do.
Three members were prosecuted for “hooliganism”, an old Soviet Communist charge used for dissenters, in 2012, two spending a year-and-a-half behind bars.
The demonstrators had posted their demands:
- Let all political prisoners free.
- Not imprison for "likes".
- Stop Illegal arrests at rallies.
- Allow political competition in the country.
- Not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in gaols for no reason.
- Turn the earthly policeman into the heavenly policeman (reference to poetry by Dmitriy Prigov).
This time, the Pussy Riot members were taken to a Moscow police station and sentenced to 15 days in gaol and a three-year ban from sporting events.
Followers of the World Cup also at the “end of the world”, the Australians, will recall their team, Socceroos, going down to France 2-1.
As in the Final, France on that occasion became one of the first contenders to benefit from the use of GLT, goal-line technology, for one of its goals — nothing to detract from their eclipsing overall strength.
Australia later drew with Denmark 1-1 and lost to Peru 2-0, not getting out of the group stage in 2018.
Media editor Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.
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