France is on fire again. But this time it is not angry youths rioting and torching cars in protest against an out-of-touch political elite.
The city streets and migrant suburbs are burning with pride and hope that Zinedine Zidane, the ageing maestro of French soccer, will drag the country out of the spiritual, social and economic doldrums with a win at the World Cup final tomorrow night, local time.
After more than a year of suburban unrest, riots, student protests, political scandals and depressing economic news, the stunning performance of Les Bleus in Germany is driving a wave of national optimism not seen in France since 1998.
Eight years ago a younger "Zizou", sporting almost a full head of hair, thrillingly united the country around his diverse team of "black, blanc, beur (black, white and Arab)" players when France enjoyed its first World Cup win.
The dream of a harmonious multi-racial "France that wins" seemed a reality as the band of players, many drawn from the former colonies, delivered a glorious 3-0 win over Brazil.
But the promise of that glorious World Cup evaporated in 2002 when far right National Front demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen - still a critic of the current colourful French soccer team for "not representing modern France" - almost won the first-round presidential election.
In the same year, Les Bleus suffered the humiliation of exiting the World Cup in the first round without winning a match or scoring a goal. From then on, France's tag as the dinosaur of "Old Europe" clung even to the beloved team.
After defeating Le Pen, Jacques Chirac squandered his mandate, presiding over a dramatic economic downturn, the resounding French rejection of an enlarged Europe and since late last year a wave of social unrest unseen since the student protests of May 1968.
But that has changed since coach Raymond Domenech's "old men", comprising experienced champions like Zidane, who came out of international retirement to help France qualify for the finals, and Lilian Thuram, who will retire on Sunday, surprised fans and competitors alike with their resurgence following a disappointing start.
In a country for too long bereft of national heroes, Zidane is once again the focus of dormant French patriotism.
"Zidane for president" is a common cry on the streets and every day the newspapers are filled with hymns of praise for France's most popular man.
"Zizou", the adored 34-year-old French captain who grew up in Marseilles, the son of Algerian migrants, is sanctified in the press, on the airwaves and in the corridors of political and commercial power.
"A magician, a genius, a star admired on every continent," Le Parisien gushed this week.
Even Finance Minister Thierry Breton acknowledged Zidane's powers.
"He is a real leader," Breton said this week before pointing out that sport plays an important role in the national economy.
The extraordinary spontaneous outpouring of public jubilation from Paris to Lyon and Marseilles following France's win over Spain in the quarter-final followed by Portugal this week led to 500,000 fans, many of them draped in the French flag, lining the Champs Elysees.
The real business begins Sunday evening, French time, when the country will stop to chant the Les Bleus motto that is fast becoming the new national anthem - "We live together, we die together" - and all centred on what one newspaper crowned "The Fabulous Destiny of Zinedine Zidane".
jidane bhai don't worry allah with us
Keep spirit, don't give up.
ALLAH WILL ALWAYS BE WITH U
I.M. me or e-mail at my Yahoo address above.
Merci pour conversation pour meilleur joueur du monde pour tous les algriens et c'est un vrai muslame
As much as it was disgraceful though, after hearing the comments that Materazzi most likely made to Zidane, perhaps Zidane should be "cut some slack." Perhaps they both should have received red cards.
I believe the Italians planned this and it was unwise for Zidane to fall for it; but words can hurt more than a head butt, and there's so much a man with integrity can take. Unfortunately it probably costed France a title eventhough they played better.
the World Cup 2006, Zidane is just another
Head Butt... we could use him in the slaughter house but not fit for our Dining Table. Not even during conversation.
Islam has it moment now globally and many Muslims are not standing up to the test and opportunity offered them especially in the US--where many more Muslims are playing it safe, while their counter-part ummah, in other places, are being brutalized--in steps Zidane--this I think s vry positive and it peaceful symbol as oposed to the models offered by the insitutions of man these days. Indigenous People in the west sufered intolerabely yet no one there Muslims or others know of their suffering and offer no remedy for them either. Many Muslims do not even know that reservations exists and that the experiences are similar with respect to a Peoples religious beliefs being seen as a pyriah and the policies to eradicate this are employed against it's People as a violation of their sacred human right. The malaise here is also global. People are growing tired of war and fanaticism. So let's enjoy Zidane's last performance as a player, hopefully he goes out it the gold but if not he's a winner anyway for the inspiration he gives to us all.
Insahallah Allah has the last word assalam alai
Hockey is to violent no, tough yes. soccer has too much faking of injuries. Violence by fans at hockey games non existant compared to soccer. Refereeing and World Cup also suspect. Scandals in soccer much more common then in Hockey. However your comments about being played by a too few teams correct, hopefully will change with time. In soccer mostly same teams make it to the last rounds however!
"As far as Mr. Le Pen he is not a demagogue, and such statements by the author are unfortunate."
You are right, his not a demagogue. Bastard, not Mr., Le Pin is the Hitler of France. He would through all the Muslims into the sea and drive them back to Africa. These are his words. If Le Pin is not a demagogue and a fascist then Adolf Hitler is worth sainthood and deserves a monument in his native Austria. Decide, DT, you can't have one measure for one kind of people and another for others. Le Pin is criticized and forestalled to gain political power, that's because still the great majority of the French people believe in the values of their revolution.
You are a loss to humanity by occupying precious space that otherwise could have been more successfully used for planting a tree or allowing a wild animal to live instead. My disgust toward you is incommensurable!
You can bet on it, Muslims in North America and the Islamic world will watch the soccer games, not because of Zinedine alone, but because Muslims love soccer more than any other sport. Hockey is too violent and reduced to a handful of countries situatated more or less close to the North Pole, while soccer is an international event. I personally, after the scandal with my favourite team the TMP, I cannot stomach hockey any more!
So long, mon ami and keep a positive eye toward your Muslim compatriots and differentiate between positive and negative forces that influence our world, regardless of religions.
I sugget to all Muslims not to listen to these two, and enjoy the game on Sunday and root for your favorite team be it Italy or France. Zindine shows to me the potential of instead fighting integration you become part of it, and make it better. Zinedine is a soccer genius and I will enjoy watching him play on Sunday!!!
As far as Mr. Le Pen he is not a demagogue, and such statements by the author are unfortunate. The fact that in 2002 that most (if not all) of the French players could NOT sing their national anthem was a little sad however. I could see that this World Cup they were all singing it proudly! Bravo!!!! Go France Go!!!