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our latest little Napoleon can't stand having to deal with people not under his command

There's another example of this with the Rugby World Cup. On Friday evening, Sarko was of course present for the opening, France being the host country.

French TV rights to the Cup were bought by TF1, the number one commercial TV in France, owned by Sarko's personal buddy Martin Bouygues, and totally devoted to the president's cause. Before the match, Sarko was interviewed by TF1 honcho Charles Villeneuve with widely-noticed smarm and lickspittle. Then the head of state was shown at his place in the grandstand, ready to cash in on the glory and the surge of national feeling that would accompany a good French performance.

Meanwhile... The French players, it is now known, were subjected to a very special preparation programme during the day. Instead of being left to follow their usual stress-management patterns, they were called up for rather emotional rituals: a jersey-awarding ceremony for the players who weren't on the match list, and above all the reading of the eve-of-execution letter by young French Resistance fighter Guy Môquet (that Sarkozy instrumentalised during the campaign by rubbing a tear or some dust out of his eye during its reading at a memorial ceremony). The letter apparently moved the players to near-tears (not as cynical as certain politicians, perhaps), as they were put on the spot to perform for the honour and glory of the nation. The result, according to some, including former French internationals, put too much emotional pressure on the players just when they needed to evacuate stress.

So out come the players and play dreadfully, uncharacteristically badly, seeming incapable of doing anything right or collecting their spirits.

During the game, the producer cut in shots of well-known people in the grandstand. But not Sarkozy. One may be forgiven for thinking that, if the French had played well, TF1 would have treated us to shots of the smiling president applauding at each exploit. But by some sixth sense the producer knew better than to associate Sarko with such a disaster.

Finally, a leaked video of which I saw a bit last night on Canal + (I haven't been able to find a copy on Internet), shows Sarko in the dressing-room tearing a strip off the players and assorted officials. Present with the players were Bernard Lapasset, president of the French Rugby Federation, Jo Maso, French team manager, and Bernard Laporte, coach and about-to-become Sarkozyst Sports Minister. Sarkozy's tone was stinging, brutal, and belittling. The players looked gutted, as well they might. It looked to me as if Lapasset turned away in anger as if to hold back from arguing with Sarko. (That was my impression, I may be wrong).

I think Napoleon said he won his victories with his soldiers' dreams. Sarkozy looks set to turn dreams into nightmares. It might not take too long before the French wake up.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 11th, 2007 at 09:24:51 AM EST

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