From the Qatari World Cup to Annie Ernaux’s Nobel Prize, a cultural and sporting year

Messi deprives the Blues of the embarrassing Qatari World Cup

December 18. 123rd minute of the final between Argentina and France, at Lusail Stadium. Randal Kolo Muani, 24, who was still scrapping in the depths of Ligue 1 a year ago, has the possibility of aligning Emiliano “Dibu” Martinez and hanging a third star in the blue jersey. Parade legs apart from the Argentinian goalkeeper. Penalty shootout. End in the tears of a five-week epic, who had however seen the French team of Didier Deschamps land in Qatar as one shows up as an expiatory victim. The list of absentees continued to grow over the fall – Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Mike Maignan, Christopher Nkunku… – in a context of XXL bazaar within a French Football Federation (FFF), subject to an audit by the Ministry of Sports and whose president, Noël Le Graët, is accused of sexual harassment. All with a view toan embarrassing competition : organized in winter in air-conditioned stadiums built by workers, many of whom died therein a country where fundamental freedoms, and in particular the rights of women and homosexuals, are violated. A few days before the start of the World Cup, a boycott movement germinated in Europe. Too late to really take. The Blues have not yet had time to beat the Australian Socceroos (4-1) before a new psychodrama occurs: the left thigh of Karim Benzema, crowned golden ball a few weeks earlier, squeals during a workout. Barely time to breathe the “Nueve” is on the plane, towards Madrid. Olivier Giroud, tipped to squat the sidelines, is again a starter, and becomes the top scorer in the history of the Blues by scoring his 52nd achievement in the round of 16 against Poland, before placing a liberating header in the quarter against England… but to remain silent in half in front of the Morocco, surprise and surprising team of this World Cup. A record that may not stand for ages. Crowned top scorer of the tournament with eight goals, including a hat-trick in the final, Kylian Mbappé is already, at 24, 36 pawns in the national team. He will be the spearhead of the generation that hatched in Qatar, led in particular by Ibrahima Konaté, Dayot Upamecano and Marcus Thuram. With Didier Deschamps as band leader? The Basque, 54, in office since 2012, could re-enlist until the 2026 World Cup. Response in January. As for the adventure in blue of “People’s Golden Ball”, it is coming to an end. In a social media post on December 19, Benzema says: “I have written my story and ours is ending.”

“Top Gun”, unsinkable Cruise

Tom Cruise celebrated his 60th birthday this year but he has once again demonstrated his ability to survive the great digital, epidemic and generational upheaval by achieving the biggest success of a career otherwise marked by mega-hits (notably the franchise Impossible mission). Top Gun: Mavericksequel unlikely (more than thirty years after the original signed Tony Scott) of the aerial exploits of a US Navy pilot ends the year on 1.5 billion worldwide receipts, number 1 of the American box office in front of superheroes Marvel. Ditto in France with almost 7 million admissions. Infinitely delayed (first release announced in July 2019) due to Covid, the film should allow Cruise – who has, according to Forbes, negotiated with Paramount 10% on receipts – to pocket 150 million dollars. We will let the reader meditate on the meaning of this craze for a military-glamorous fiction, “exhilarating military recruitment ad” as Caleb Ecarma writes in Vanity Fair, supervised by officers of the United States Department of Defense. A movie old school otherwise which has bet everything on theatrical exploitation and on the collective “whaouh” experience, both for the pirouettes carried out without special effects and for the skin and hair prowess of a Cruise cleverly maintained in immarcescible glory.

Federer, ultimate setback

September 23. Two of the greatest players in the history of tennis sitting on a bench, in tears, staring into space, hand in hand. On September 23 at the O2 Arena in London, just after their double loss to the American pair Sock-Tiafoe in the Laver Cup (6-4, 6-7, 9-11), it took long minutes for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to achieve: the professional career of the Swiss maestro, started in 1998, is over. More than 1,500 matches on the clock, for 1,251 victories, 103 ATP titles, 20 Grand Slam tournaments on the list, and a body that, at 41, could no longer keep up. End clap on a course that places him in the highest echelons of the history of the game. An accomplishment not necessarily obvious at his beginnings. From an immature, screaming and irritable kid, cap backwards and ready to smash his racket in the event of a miss, Federer has turned into an almost unshakable monk, headband on his head, sponsored by Rolex, gifted with an indefinable palette of strokes with unparalleled aesthetics. And this immoderate taste for winning. His opponents will regret it a little, the world of tennis a lot.

Kanye West, the extremist drift

“Songs don’t move the political needle one millimeter,” according to the American musician Natalie Mering alias Weyes Blood in an interview given to Freed in September. Sentence to which it is not difficult to subscribe but Mering probably did not think of the political influence of a giant like Kanye West, superstar of the rap of which one can predict that the unexpected drift towards the far right and anti-Semitism the dirtiest will have consequences on the landscape of his country, the United States. One of the most spectacular media sequences in the recent history of pop music, of which it is difficult to designate the most acute moment – undoubtedly this appearance on the set ofInfowars, the medium of the very toxic Alex Jones, where Kanye West, under a balaclava, declared his love for Hitler – but a simple navigation on Twitter is enough to see the disastrous consequence on public opinion. Nobody forgot that Kanye West suffered from mental illness, that he refuses to treat himself, that he needs help. But the damage is done, he turned into an anti-Semitic supervillain and he drew part of his huge audience in his delirium.

Amber Heard-Johnny Depp, toxic lawsuit

April May. Fairfax, a modest town in Virginia whose inhabitants swear that nothing ever happens there, was for seven weeks during the theater, or rather the circus, of a blockbuster format trial. Two months of painful unpacking and trash-digging expertise, broadcast live, in full and in split-screen, to determine who, Johnny Depp orAmber Hearddivorced in 2016, had defamed the other by rejecting him the accusation of physical and psychological violence which led the couple to disaster. But while the jurors struggled to clear the magma of contradictory testimonies, rich in “coke jars” and sordid accounts of an intimacy laid bare (to give birth to a verdict in the form of a draw), a another kind of court, popular and globalized, delivered its savage justice. The one, fuel for the irrational and stainless popularity of Depp, which generated tens of billions of views on TikTok, Facebook and Twitter to mock, insult, even threaten Heard, and portray her as the embodiment of diabolical duplicity. A quasi-trial in witchcraft, under the toxic features of the most violent post-MeToo backlash, which could leave traces much more serious and lasting than the judgment of Fairfax.

Annie Ernaux, Nobel event

October 6. She is the 17th woman in history to receive the distinction : the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to Annie Ernaux, a writer who “constantly examines from different angles lives marked by disparities, namely: gender, language and social class”. Born in 1940 in Seine-Maritime, daughter of small tradesmen from the working world, she was 22 when she noted in her diary: “I will write to avenge my race.” Of the Empty cupboards (1974) until Young man (2022), some twenty stories make up an auto-socio-biographical work in a deliberately neutral style that dissects the weight of class and gender domination, and amorous passion. She will explain it in her Nobel acceptance speech, December 7:Thus, in this first book, published in 1974, without my being aware of it then, was defined the area in which I would place my writing work, an area that was both social and feminist. To avenge my race and to avenge my sex would henceforth be one.” The nobelization of Annie Ernaux has sparked attacks in France against her style and her political commitment (alongside Mélenchon). His books, published by Gallimard, shine in 45 countries, and have inspired numerous university works.

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From the Qatari World Cup to Annie Ernaux’s Nobel Prize, a cultural and sporting year

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