jeudi 14 avril 2011

French Class

In England, the nineties gave voice to beta fan: a breed of middle class, university-educated, emotionally developed, family orientated men and women who quite like football but recognise - for the sake of good taste - that it's only a game. Beta fan has always existed, but couldn't previously be heard over the din created by alpha fan.

The Emirates Stadium is beta fan's Mecca. A Gunner, Nick Hornby, was the first to map beta fan's genetic code. If beta fan were to share a half-bottle of Waitrose GOC with any contemporary manager, it would be Arsène Wenger (make that Riesling). Beta fan's favourite player? The supremely urbane Thierry Henry.

The rise of beta fan is associated not only with Arsenal, but with the French. Wenger, Henry, Vieira, Petit, Ginola and Cantona have been totemic figures in an evolutionary period punctuated by the dual triumphs of les Bleus. Indeed, the France sides that won World Cup '98 and Euro 2000 might have been expressly selected to appeal to beta fan. Recall how mature and cerebral the likes of Lizarazu, Dugarry and Thuram appeared in comparison with, say, Gary Neville.

Whatever the gentrifying influence of French managers and players on the sport in England, football in France is - to this day - the domain of alpha fan. Why? The primary reason is financial. Ticket prices are kept in check by the mediocrity of Ligue 1. Central Paris is relentlessly bourgeois and ludicrously expensive, yet entry to the Parc des Princes costs as little as 12 Euros. Well-to-do Parisians steer clear, often professing vague allegiance to a glamorous foreign club (Barçelona or Arsenal) rather than PSG, which is left to the banlieusards, the city's underclass.

As an unashamed beta fan, I'm comfortable with my demographic's increased prominence in England, which extends from top-flight stadiums to the sports pages of every broadsheet newspaper. That said, 105 minutes spent in the Paris or Auteuil stand of the Parc is a refreshingly unreconstructed experience. There, alpha fan is alive and well. Pity about the catering.

1 commentaire:

  1. And yet France's most famous intellectuals are football fans. Camus and Derrida were both semi-professional players, for instance. I wonder if this is similar to how the super rich in America vote Democratic while the merely rich vote Republican. Once you've gotten a certain amount of capital, be it financial or cultural, you don't have to worry about class-markers anymore.

    How is it in cities outside Paris? Are the middle-class Lillois, Rennais and Stéphanois similarly uninterested in their football teams?