SHARE
COPY LINK

WORLD CUP

‘Vive la France!’: Deja vu as euphoric French fans party like it’s 1998

Football fans across France partied like it was 1998 after Tuesday's semi-final win over Belgium with the scenes of a packed Champs Elysees and delirious supporters jumping on buses reminiscent of when Les leus won the World Cup on home soil back in 1998.

'Vive la France!': Deja vu as euphoric French fans party like it's 1998
Photo: AFP

The French national anthem La Marseillaise, chants of “We're in the final” and a cacophony of car horns and fire crackers rang out over Paris and towns and cities across the country on Tuesday as residents of the capital celebrated France's march to the World Cup final.

A crowd of 20,000 gathered to watch Didier Deschamps' team beat Belgium 1-0 in their semi-final in Saint Petersburg on a giant screen at Paris' historic Hotel de Ville, or town hall.

With viewing space at a premium every vantage spot was occupied — with fans perched on trees, on top of vans, on dustbins and bus shelters.

Samuel Umtiti's decisive goal in the 51st minute triggered the waving of a sea of tricolor flags as ecstatic supporters — many in the national team's 
colours — kissed and hugged and danced.

“Vive la France, vive la Republique” shouted Alia and Sacha, two Parisian schoolchildren.

“We are so proud to be French tonight!” the young girls explained as around them fire crackers exploded on the cobblestones.

Motorbikes, cycles, cars, dustbin lorries – they all came to a standstill to join in the celebrations. With France under high security since the November 2015 terrorist attacks the fan zone was policed by over 1,200 members of the security forces.

Fans, who had climbed on top of buses gingerly inching their way through the crowds, were dancing and waving flares and flags, as the bus driver fought a losing battle to get his passengers to their destination on time.

Many fans were too young to remember the last time France won the World Cup two decades ago.

Vive la France

“I was 18 years old in 1998, it was one of the most beautiful nights of my life. We'll repeat that this Sunday,” forecast Sebastien, 36.

“This team is fantastic,” he beamed.

“Boys, we're world champions” one man in his 30s was heard telling his mates. “Stop that, you'll bring us bad luck” he was reprimanded before the 
group of friends broke out into the chant of the night – “We're in the final”.

From balconies, families waved the French national flag, children kitted out in Les Bleus shirts waved to the crowd below.

The Rue de Rivoli, normally choc-a-bloc with Tuesday night traffic, became a temporary pedestrian zone as crowds made their way along it past the Louvre to the Champs-Elysees, where 20 years earlier Paris had gathered to celebrate France's sole World Cup win on home soil.

Two decades on, there was a sense of deja vu as thousands of euphoric fans turned the City of Lights' most celebrated boulevard into a giant street party.

Up in the capital's red light district at Pigalle in the 18th arrondissement, the neon lit-windmill outside the Moulin Rouge cabaret was shrouded in a haze of smokebombs and flares. 

“It's magnificent,” beamed Thierry Perier, 45, who was with his eight-year-old daughter.

“We needed this in France, we deserved it. We had the best players and for the moral of the French, to win the World Cup would be the best present ever,” he said, his voice hoarse from cheering.

Another fan, 17-year-old Lea was not even born when France won their one and only World Cup on a heady night at the Stade de France in a 3-0 triumph over Brazil.

Lea told AFP: “It's so beautiful what's happened. We are going to experience our own '98' now!”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

SHOW COMMENTS