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France

Finance Minister Lagarde gives red card to Cantona over bank plan

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2010-12-02

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde gave former football star Eric Cantona a red card on Wednesday, asserting that people should not follow his advice to empty their bank accounts on December 7 so that “the system collapses”.

“To each his own”, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said at a press conference Wednesday, referring to former French footballer Eric Cantona. “Some people play football magnificently, whereas I wouldn’t dare try. I think that people should stick to their areas of expertise”.

Lagarde’s shot at Cantona was a reaction to a YouTube video of an interview with the football legend from last month. In the interview, Cantona said that millions of people should start a revolution by withdrawing all of their money from their banks.

The buzz created by Cantona’s statement was visibly a sore spot for Lagarde, who added: “I think that a great football player or movie star should not intervene in the financial or economic domain, especially when he doesn’t fully grasp the fundamentals”.

Cantona’s call to action

The incident that led a top figure of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet to take on the former “King” of Manchester United occurred in early October, as the French government faced mass protest against a pension reform that raised the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. During a filmed interview with French regional daily newspaper Presse Océan, Cantona said: “The system is built on the power of banks. So it can be destroyed by banks. Instead of having three million people protesting in the streets, they should go to the bank and take out all their money so the banks collapse”.

Cantona’s idea might have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for the surge of online buzz that followed it, with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere all publishing the video. A French Facebook group called “Revolution! December 7 we will all withdraw our money from the banks!” has already attracted more than 50,000 followers. The creators of the group wrote: “We thank football player Eric Cantona for having given us this idea. We have taken it seriously. The die is cast. The future will tell isf we were right”. They also launched a Web site, www.bankrun2010.com, available in seven languages in order to give their initiative an international dimension.

Conscious of the excitement generated by what he called his “revolution without weapons or blood”, Cantona – who has become an film and stage actor since retiring from football – addressed the matter once more in late November: “I have noticed, like everyone else, this strange solidarity that is in the process of emerging, so, yes, on December 7 I will be at the bank”, Cantona told French daily Libération.

Other than Christine Lagarde and the banks, certain newspaper editorialists have also criticized Cantona’s initiative, which financial analysts say will likely have no effect on the economy. On Thursday, Jacques Camus, of French regional daily “La République du Centre”, denounced the “crusade” led by a “Che in football cleats”. According to Camus, Cantona, “who owes his fortune to the extreme lucrativeness of English football”, should “admit that the average fellow does not have as big a nest egg as he does to hoard away”.
 

Date created : 2010-12-02

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