France and North Korea at the World Cup

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who, in watching the North Korean soccer team’s World Cup matches, flinched every time one of their players screwed up, wondering what awaited them when they returned home. It turns out I should have been more concerned with the fate of the French national team, whose World Cup implosion has triggered the kind of absolute unity of opinion one rarely encounters here. But the popular outrage has become a political pile-on, with Thierry Henry scheduled to consult with President Nicolas Sarkozy at Elysée Palace today, and an Estates General of the country’s soccer federation called as well. The way things are looking, I wouldn’t be surprised to read that the French team hijacks its own plane home and orders it to land in Pyongyang.

The upside is that the entire episode, combined with the U.S. team’s heroics, has provided me with what amounts to kryptonite against any future jokes about American soccer, which can get very tiring, believe me. It also gives me a chance to link to this post I wrote last June about sports and international relations when the Iranian national soccer team wore green wristbands during its World Cup qualifier match in the aftermath of the contested presidential election.

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