''Sport and Franco-German Reconciliation''

Jean-Christophe Meyer Spoke about the Power of Sports as a Political Tool

April 21st, 2016

Sports has played its part in the reconciliation between the French and the German people. Individual and amateur sports like cycling (especially the “Tour de France”) were important in this process but during this lecture, Jean-Christophe Meyer chose to focus on the role of professional football as it is one of the most popular sports in both countries. After the Second World War, the question was Should we play against our former enemy? .

Jean-Christophe Meyer’s choice to focus on professional football is very interesting choice since at the same time as it was encouraging reconciliation after the first game between France and Western-Germany took place in France in 1952, a great sport rivalry was born. After the Second World War, the question was Should we play against our former enemy? . After the game, attended by many German fans, the French press commented it using the lexical field of the war and ironizing about the fact that Germans like to come to Paris and get comfortable there. Raymond Koppa, one of France’s best player at the time later told Jean-Christophe Meyer that the officials of the French Football Federation told the team that they weren’t allowed to lose this game.

Even though the two countries only played each other four times in official competitions since then, the rivalry has been pretty intense. It reached its highest point in 1982 in Sevilla during the semifinals of the World Cup when the German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher committed a hard foul on the French forward Patrick Battiston that wasn’t sanctioned by the referee. After this incident, French media stated that this game wasn’t fair and started to use the old image of the mean German again. The examples of the 1952 and 1982 France-Germany games show that, at the time, these confrontations were much more than simple football games. Jean-Christophe Meyer explains that these games helped canalize any animosity between the two countries on the pitch and, by doing so, helped the reconciliation process.

Nowadays, France-Germany confrontations don’t have the same intensity and are almost like any other international game as the quarterfinal during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil showed. Looking back at the history of these France-Germany games, we can see than both societies have come a long way and don’t see each other as enemies anymore but simply as sports rivals.

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Cultural Diplomacy News
Pierre Even, CD News