Let’s scrap anthems before international matches
Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot said that France matches must be stopped if it happens again and French Football Federation chief Jean-Pierre Escalettes was summoned by President Nicolas Sarkozy for a meeting.
Escalettes, however, warned of potential security problems if the threat was carried out.
“You can’t take a decision like that without having guarantees in terms of security,” he said. “You can’t throw 50,000 people out on the streets without having planned it in advance.”
A much easier solution, perhaps, would be not to play national anthems at all.
International football already stirs enough nationalistic sentiments and anthems, many of which have a decidedly belligerent tone, fuel them even more.
Events in the last few years also suggest that playing anthems merely gives politicians an excuse for sticking their noses into football affairs and creates the potential for embarrassing gaffes.
Last month, FIFA ordered North Korea to play South Korea in Shanghai after the goverment refused to allow the South’s anthem to be played in Pyongyang.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, once said goalkeeper Fabian Barthez should be dropped for not singing the anthem and, for good measure, complained that the team had too many “players of colour”.
But when Italian politicans told the team they should join in with the anthem during the 2002 World Cup, the players made a point of doing the opposite and not singing.
“We sing the anthem every day, even two or three times a day when we are in the team bus. But we have decided not to sing on the field, it is a question of pride,” said midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.
In any case, so many teams employ foreign coaches and field naturalised players — often with the help of governments fast-tracking passport applications — that they are becoming ever-less representative of the country they represent.
One of the most enduring images at the 2006 World Cup was of Mexico coach Ricardo La Volpe hiding in the players’ tunnel before the second round tie against his native Argentina so that nobody would see which, if any anthem, he sang.
When Argentina-born midfielder Mauro Camoranesi decided to play for Italy, he admitted that he did not know the tune of his adopted country but added: “I don’t even sing my own national anthem.”
PHOTO: A Honduras supporter sings the national anthem before a World Cup qualifying match in San Pedro Sula, Oct 11. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido