Even politics can’t stop Emmanuel Macron from cheering on Les Bleus.
Macron is expected to travel to Doha for the second time in a week to take part in the 2022 Qatar World Cup final between France and Argentina on Sunday.
He was in Qatar on Wednesday for the Les Bleus semi-final match against Morocco, where he welcomed France’s 2-0 win from the box seats. He watched the game with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
The president’s support for the French national team is symbolic of a football-obsessed nation that is on the brink of winning back-to-back World Cups.
“I’m very proud of my country. I’m very happy,” Macron told reporters after the game against Morocco.
“I want the French to enjoy this simple happiness.”
However, Macron’s 13,000 km (8,000 miles) round trip to Qatar will be worthwhile if the French team can win the country’s third World Cup title.
“Bring them back? ” he tweeted on Wednesday, referring to the trophy that the French call the “Coupe du Monde.”
Thanks for the blues.
Now the cup! pic.twitter.com/kkzCHlmljs
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 14, 2022
Macron also caused a stir because he had personally supported Les Bleus. Climate activists harshly criticized the French head of state for taking the six-hour one-way trip to Doha, which they described as environmentally harmful.
“We thought it was a shocking leadership failure that Emmanuel Macron would watch soccer,” instead of attending a UN biodiversity conference in Canada, Oscar Soria, campaign director for the nonprofit organization Avaaz for global activism, said on Twitter on December 14.
Macron did not apologize.
“I support the French team and I think so do the French,” Macron said at a European summit in Brussels on Thursday.
In France, the pre-game mood has reached its peak after the win over Morocco and while fans eagerly awaited Sunday’s game. More than 20 million viewers watched the semi-final on French television TF1, a historic figure.
“We are, we are, we are in the final” 🥳
The atmosphere on the Champs Elysées is rising pic.twitter.com/bmhniep5VA
— Alexander Aflalo (@aflaalex) December 14, 2022
Thousands of fans flocked to the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Wednesday evening. Many sang “We are in the final,” carried French flags and fired red torches. Cars circled the iconic Arc de Triomphe and played a symphony of honking horns.
The riot police, which were stationed in large numbers on the boulevards earlier this week, temporarily fired tear gas to control the pulsing crowd. French authorities have now called for the Champs-Élysées to be shut down ahead of Sunday’s game, and thousands of riot police are expected to be deployed across Paris in anticipation of another seismic crowd.
Elsewhere in France, in the northern town of Compiegne, fans gathered in a gym to watch the French World Cup campaign.
“Sunday is just a formality, the cup is already being held in France,” said Karine, 28.
France, driven by a relentless Kylian Mbappe, who is seeking the Golden Boot trophy — and is with Lionel Messi — has scored five goals in the World Cup so far.
Even though Mbappe doesn’t win the Coupe Du Monde on Sunday, he has already inspired a generation of young French soccer players.
“It motivates me, inspires me, makes me work even harder,” 12-year-old Yacine Ngamatah, who plays for the Paris club team AS Bondy, for which Mbappe played as a child prodigy, told the Associated Press news agency.
Ngamatah, who scored four of his team’s ten goals against a club from another suburb of Paris on Saturday, is one of the countless young French players who hope to follow in Mbappe’s footsteps.
“When I watch the French national team, I get emotional because I think that maybe one day my child will be with them too,” said parent Rabiah Bertrand, whose 12-year-old son Ilan also played on Saturday.
In Doha, the French fans who made the trip to the Gulf nation were also extremely optimistic about Les Bleus’s chances against Messi and his Argentinean colleagues.
“It will be very difficult against Argentina but I think we can do it,” said a French fan outside the Al Bayt Stadium. “We have a great defense and when it comes to our attack, we’re unstoppable if we play well.”
Closing ceremonies start at Lusail Stadium at 16:30 (13:30 GMT) and the France-Argentina final is scheduled to start at 18:00 (15:00 GMT).