Macron plays politics in sports from Benzema to Mbappé and Zidane
The French President sought to keep Mbappé in PSG, return Karim Benzema to the national team, and bring Zidane to coach in France.
French President Emmanuel Macron has recently taken an unprecedented interest in sports affairs, interfering in details related to athletes.
No head of state has ever appeared to talk about and name specific athletes. Usually, the public discourse is that athletes are ambassadors of the country and are part of its culture and image, but Macron today works in a different way.
Seeing Zidane coaching in France
Recently, sports media circulated news, claiming that former Real Madrid player and coach, Zinedine Zidane, might take over the training of Qatari-owned French football club Paris Saint-Germain.
Following the press talk, Macron expressed that he would love to see Zidane coaching in France.
Macron's remarks about Zidane were not the first in terms of his interference in sports. The French President realizes that sports is one of the tools and platforms of political marketing and polishing the image of nations - also known as Nation Branding.
Forced return of Karim Benzema
In the past, Macron stressed the importance of Karim Benzema's return to the French national team, after the Real Madrid player was excluded due to accusations of blackmailing his colleague Matteo Valbuena.
French investigative journalist Romain Molina indicated that Macron intervened to force coach Didier Deschamps to call Benzema to the national team and participate in the 2020 European Championship.
It is noteworthy that Macron's intervention in sports came sometime before the recent presidential elections, where perhaps the President was aiming to win the votes of Arab immigrants.
Following Benzema's return to the national team, Macron said that he believes the player "is an example for many young people with an immigrant background. He really is a model for them."
Although Benzema returned to the national team, Macron did not stop intervening in French football. In fact, the French President had put pressure to prevent the transfer of Kylian Mbappé from Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid.
"Defend the country"
Macron revealed that he spoke to Mbappé and advised him to stay in France.
"I merely advised him, in a totally informal way, to remain in France. I believe it is my responsibility, as president, to defend the country when asked in an informal and friendly manner," he mentioned.
On Friday, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez considered that Mbappé decided to stay at PSG because he was “confused” after being put under intense “political and economic pressure."
“If a kid is called by the president of a country, of course it affects him... that influenced him a lot. But you can succeed at Real Madrid, like Zidane did, and also be a source of pride for the president of your country,” Perez indicated.
Perhaps Macron sees Mbappé as part of France's "Brand Image" and associates him with the means of so-called soft power.
Preserving the shining stars
Macron's intervention aims not only to develop football only but also to link this development and sporting progress to the image of the country, making football a means of marketing and promoting France in its various aspects, as well as promoting the President's image.
There is no doubt that the French President understands the importance of attracting investments in this field, therefore, he must first preserve the "shining stars" and the best "soldiers" with whom he will fight.
He must also be able to preserve investors for a long period of time, by guaranteeing profits for them in a country that is the third in terms of GDP in Europe.