World Cup Win Gives French Something to Bask in, if Only for a Day
(Bloomberg) -- France’s World Cup victory gave the country a much-needed morale boost after a decade of moroseness brought on by terrorist attacks and a lackluster economy.
While the feel-good moment is bringing the nation together in a way only tragic events have in the past, don’t expect it to translate into something to take to the bank, economists warned.
“The victory will clearly impact the social cohesion in France: It brings people together, it creates a sense of national community,” said Nathalie Henaff, a research follow at the Limoges University economy of sports study department. “French people will consume differently, spend more time outdoors to celebrate, change behavior for some time so we will witness a transfer of consumption. For the economy, it will be marginal. It’s a wash.”
Throughout the night, overjoyed supporters waving the nation’s blue-white-and-red flags screamed, honked and celebrated in the streets after the national team was crowned the world champion in soccer. On Paris’s landmark Champs Elysees avenue, police used tear gas to disperse a group of young men who vandalized the well-known “Drugstore” building, Agence France-Presse said.
Chanting the Marseillaise, the national anthem, in the Paris metro, on the Rhone riverbank, in cafes and elsewhere, people kissed, hugged and applauded. They sang “I Will Survive,” which was also the 1998 victory tune, when France first won the title in the world’s most popular sport.
French President Emmanuel Macron threw his arms in the air when victory was declared, and later kissed Kylian Mbappe on his head to congratulate the tournament’s best young player. As he stood under heavy rain on the podium next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Croatia’s Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, Macron hugged France’s manager Didier Deschamps and kissed the golden trophy before the players held it chanting “we are the champions.”
“Les Bleus,” as the national team is called for their blue jerseys, will be coming home from Russia on Monday with the 6-kilo solid gold trophy. Millions are expected to greet the team, with its strikers 19-year-old Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, as it parades down the Champs Elysees in the afternoon.
“You put your heart into it, you’ve made your country proud,” Macron told the players in the locker room after the game. “There are 66 million French people waiting for you, many of them young. You’re an example for the country.”
France won against Croatia 4 goals to 2 in the Sunday game at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium. In the run up to the final, the French beat teams from nations including Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium. Croatia won its qualification against England and eliminated host nation Russia.
“In the past, French people only got together, in national union, after tragic events such as the terrorist attacks,” said Bernard Sananes who heads the Elabe polling institute. “This is a happy moment, a positive moment that they have been craving for.”
For all the celebration, the victory’s impact on the the euro area’s second-biggest economy will barely be felt.
Eurler Hermes’ Ludovic Subran said the victory may add 0.1 percentage points to France’s gross domestic product. The economy may expand 1.9 percent instead of 1.8 percent, according to the Paris-based economist’s forecast. It will also improve consumption by 0.2 points to 1.3 percent, he said.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was more confident ahead of the game.
“A World Cup victory gives French people confidence,” he said on France 2 television on July 11.. “There is a part of irrationality in economy, that thrives on confidence, desire and enthusiasm.”
The 1998 win prompted a small jump in consumer confidence with no noticeable impact on the GDP. French economic growth this year may fall short of the government’s 2 percent forecast and is set to slow in the years after, according to the Bank of France. It expanded 2 percent in 2017, a six-year high.
For Macron, the victory is good news and plays into the “France is back” narrative that he has promoted at home at abroad. Still, he might not get the bounce that then French President Jacques Chirac got in 1998.
Chirac gained from a feeling of “euphoria,” with a 15 percentage-point jump in popularity and an approval rating that flirted with 70 percent, according to Ipsos. He maintained that high level for over a couple years, also helped by the fact that he was leaving the day-to-day management of his country to his prime minister.
Macron doesn’t enjoy the same level of support from his people 14 months into office as he seeks to push through reforms to everything from the labor market to retirement, health and unemployment benefits.
He’s in “a fragile” situation, Les Echos newspaper said in its July 12 editorial. His popularity has fallen to an average of 33 percent, down 13 percentage points since the start of the year, hovering very close to the record low of his predecessor and former boss, Socialist President Francois Hollande.
“Macron will try hard to show he’s not seeking to use the victory for his own political goals,” said Sananes. “He is trying to rectify his image right now, trying to show humility because he is tagged as arrogant and disconnected from people’s problem. It will be a balancing act to take a low profile while celebrating a major victory.”
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